University of California Berkeley
Regional Oral History Office University of California
The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California
A LIFE WITH BOOKS AND WITH
FINE PRINT: THE REVIEW FOR THE ARTS OF THE BOOK
With an Introduction by
Robert D. Harlan
Interviews Conducted by
Robert D. Harlan
Copyright 2001 by The Regents of the University of California
Since 1954 the Regional Oral History Office has been interviewing leading
participants in or well-placed witnesses to major events in the development of
northern California, the West, and the nation. Oral history is a method of
collecting historical information through tape-recorded interviews between a
narrator with firsthand knowledge of historically significant events and a well-
informed interviewer, with the goal of preserving substantive additions to the
historical record. The tape recording is transcribed, lightly edited for
continuity and clarity, and reviewed by the interviewee. The corrected
manuscript is indexed, bound with photographs and illustrative materials, and
placed in The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, and in
other research collections for scholarly use. Because it is primary material,
oral history is not intended to present the final, verified, or complete
narrative of events. It is a spoken account, offered by the interviewee in
response to questioning, and as such it is reflective, partisan, deeply involved,
All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal agreement
between The Regents of the University of California and Sandra
Kirshenbaum dated January 23, 2001. The manuscript is thereby made
available for research purposes. All literary rights in the
manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to The
Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley. No part
of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written
permission of the Director of The Bancroft Library of the University
of California, Berkeley.
Requests for permission to quote for publication should be
addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 486 Bancroft Library,
Mail Code 6000, University of California, Berkeley 94720-6000, and
should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted,
anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.
The legal agreement with Sandra Kirshenbaum requires that she be
notified of the request and allowed thirty days in which to respond.
It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
Sandra Kirshenbaum, "A Life with Books and
with Fine Print: The Review for the Arts
of the Book," an oral history conducted in
1999 by Robert D. Harlan, Regional Oral
History Office, The Bancroft Library,
University of California, Berkeley, 2001.
Photo by Carole DeNola
Kirshenbaum, Sandra (b. 1938) Editor and publisher
A Life with Books and with Fine Print: The Review for the Arts of the Book,
2001, vi, 151 pp.
Italian family background and San Francisco childhood; UC Berkeley B.A., 1959;
Carnegie Institute of Technology, MLS, 1960; work as public librarian,
cataloguer, antiquarian bookseller; evolution of Fine Print, 1973-1990, to
international status; reflections on fine printers Andrew Hoyem, Steve Corey,
Herb Kaplan, George Ritchie, Linnea Gentry; thoughts on cover designers and
artists, Adrian Wilson, Frances Butler, Sumner Stone, Hermann Zepf; thoughts
on fine printing and computer design.
Introduction by Robert D. Harlan, interviewer.
Interviewed 1999 by Robert D. Harlan. The Regional Oral History Office,
The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
The Regional Oral History Office, on behalf of future researchers,
wishes to thank Robert D. Harlan, who interviewed Sandra Kirshenbaum and
edited the transcript, as well as The Bancroft Library s Norman H. Strouse
Fund. These contributions made possible this oral history of Sandra
TABLE OF CONTENTS --Sandra Kirshenbaum
INTRODUCTION- -by Robert Harlan i
INTERVIEW HISTORY--by Robert Harlan v
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION vi
I A BOOKWOMAN S BEGINNINGS
A Printing Family in Italy; Escaping During World War II 1
Father s Business Ventures in San Francisco 5
Early Interest in Books and Libraries; Public School in San
Francisco and San Mateo 7
Undergraduate at UC Berkeley, 1956-1959; Library School at
Carnegie University, 1959-1960 9
Parents Background and Influence 12
Librarian in New Jersey and Argentina; Husband s Career as a
Settling in the Bay Area; Two Years on the East Coast 19
Cataloging Auction Books for Maurice Powers 22
II THE GENESIS OF FINE PRINT 27
The People of Fine Print, Circa 1973 27
Introductions to Steve Corey, Herb Kaplan, and the Grabhorn-
Hoyem Press 32
Meeting George Ritchie and Linnea Gentry; Starting With $800 35
Process and Content for Early Issues of Fine Print 39
Expanding the Size and Scope of Fine Print 45
All Volunteers: Regular Staff and Outside Reviewers 48
III SPECIAL ISSUES AND THE HEYDAY OF FINE PRINT 52
Surveys of Foreign Fine Printing 52
The Czech Issue, January 1987 53
The German Issue, April 1986; Visiting Renata Raecke and
Other Book People in Germany, 1986 59
A Letterpress Conference Leads to Contacts in London, 1985 65
The Italian Fine Printing Scene 68
Other Foreign Coverage 71
"Broadside Roundup" Column, From 1984 74
Other Columns; Coverage of Bookbinding and Calligraphy 77
Editorial Planning; Indexing 80
The Influence of Lloyd Reynolds; Profiles and Obituaries of
Book Artists 84
The Dutch Issue; Reader Responses 87
Tenth Anniversary Issue, January 1985 92
IV COVER ART AND A BOOK ON TYPE 96
Designers and Artists of fine Print Covers; Adrian Wilson,
Frances Butler, Sumner Stone, Hermann Zapf, and Others 96
Publishing a Book: Fine Print on Type, 1989 112
V THE LAST OF THE FINE PRINT YEARS 118
Subscribers, Advertising, and Circulation; Steven Harvard
and Stinehour Press 118
Grant Funding 124
Forming an Umbrella Organization, Pro Arte Libri, 1989 126
Financial Desperation and a Benefit Auction 130
Seeking a University Press Publisher; No Solution 137
The Complete Index to Fine Print 139
Thoughts on Computer Design and the Fine Print Legacy 142
TAPE GUIDE 145
INTRODUCTION by Robert D. Harlan
When my offer to conduct oral histories for the Regional Oral
History Office (ROHO) was accepted in 1999 by The Bancroft Library, one
of the top priorities was an interview of Sandra Kirshenbaum. Herein is
the interview. For this Introduction I have chosen to reprint, with
some omissions and modifications, the following article originally
published in Number 4, the April 2000 issue of Parenthesis: The
Newsletter of The Fine Press Book Association, pages 19-20. For their
kind permission to reprint this article I thank the editors of
Parenthesis. Since the publication of this article Sandy has been
honored with distinguished awards from the American Printing History
Association and the Book Club of California.
THE EXAMPLE OF FINE PRINT
by Robert D. Harlan
Many readers of Parenthesis will recall with pleasure its
illustrious predecessor Fine Print (1975-1990) which was originally
created by its editor /publisher Sandra Kirshenbaum to remedy the absence
of effective bibliographical control of recently issued fine press
books, a condition she had observed as a cataloguer for a rare book
auction house and as a bookseller. Ignoring the warnings of a
distinguished doyen of the San Francisco book scene that such a project
could never succeed, she persisted with the help of three volunteers
(the late D. Steven Corey, a rare book librarian, and Linnea Gentry and
George Ritchie, two junior members of Andrew Hoyem s press), with a
budget dependent upon her personal bank account and a generous donation
from her mother. The Fine Print office consisted of a card table around
which her colleagues and she would gather to discuss the material they
had assembled, including fine press books submitted for review. Few in
number at first, these were preponderantly issued by California presses
where Sandy was known and where her pledge to return the books in the
same condition in which they had been received was readily accepted.
The inaugural issue of Fine Print, published in January 1975, comprised
a modest eight pages of text without illustrations and a banner instead
of a separate cover. Sub- titled "A Newsletter for the Arts of the
Book," it contained no substantive articles of the quality for which
Fine Print would eventually become known and limited news, but it did
establish the framework for future issues in its departments, including
"Shoulder Notes," a collection of newsworthy events, and most important,
"Works in Progress" and "Recent Press Books." Printed by Andrew Hoyem,
it set high typographical standards which were consistently adhered to
as other printers and designers became involved. Hoyem s support was
generoushis contribution to the causeand here too he contributed to
the model because Sandy could sometimes offer only modest honoraria to
contributors, perhaps a copy of a book or complementary subscription to
Fine Print, or just her thanks and the opportunity to participate in the
making of an increasingly noteworthy journal. Fine Print never wanted
Basing her mailing list upon the lists of The Book Club of
California and The Typophiles of New York, the latter by courtesy of Dr.
Robert Leslie who added a personal donation of $50, Sandy ordered the
printing of 2,000 copies of Volume I, Number 1 of Fine Print. The
response was encouraging, and Fine Print seemed well launched. Sandy s
first serious challenge, to free the journal of a provincial
"California" stigma, diminished as the roster of authors, reviewers, and
fine presses became international in scope. The first of several
milestones on that path was reached when conservative eastern printer
Joseph Blumenthal agreed to review William Everson s controversial
masterpiece, Robinson Jeffers 1 Granite & Cypress. Sandy had approached
Blumenthal with some reservation, so his enthusiastic response
emboldened her to other acts of an audacity seemingly out of character.
But if Sandy may sometimes have been uncomfortable in her new persona,
others were not, and her modesty, integrity, and enthusiasm won many
friends for Fine Print and herself.
Sandy s editorial policy, from which she never deviated, was
stated in the first issue of Fine Print: "to present a lively and
informed report of the current scene in all its diversity." She
interpreted this ambitious policy to encompass all of the arts of the
book. Further, she attempted to integrate all of the arts of the book,
first with an expanded coverage of calligraphy, bookbinding,
papermaking, wood engraving and type design, the latter subject
increasingly devoted to digitization and computer-generated types, along
with continued full coverage of fine printing, and second with broad
international coverage. The latter goal was most brilliantly achieved
in the special issues surveying particular countries about which little
was known at the time in the English-speaking world. The German issue,
guest edited by Renak Raecke, was a revelation; the Czech issue, with
guest editor James Eraser, a tour de force, surmounting as it did
formidable editorial problems such as dealing with articles in an exotic
foreign language, and with sometimes awkward communications--this before
the age of the fax machine and e-mail with a country behind the Iron
Curtain. The Czech issue provided the first comprehensive picture in
English of the continued rich heritage of the book arts in that country
since the 1930s, and it triggered something of a revival of interest in
the West. The Czech articles in the issue employed Monotype s version
of Oldrich Menhart s original roman and italic design which Fine Print
typographical editor Paul Hayden Duensing lent for the occasion. These
accomplishments, and many others, gave credence to Sandy s proclamation
in her editorial celebrating its fifteenth year that Fine Print had
truly become "the gluon for the arts of the book."
Equally important to Fine Print s success was its physical
appearance which served to enhance the periodical s attraction, to
provide a forum for guest designers and printers, and to serve as an
example of a journal devoted to the arts of the book. With the October
1979 issue, separate covers were introduced, each designed by a
different person who might be a calligrapher, a printer, a type
designer, or a practitioner of some other crafts. Adrian Wilson s cover
design inaugurated this series which became the talk of the trade.
Everyone has her or his own favorite cover design. The entire corpus
will continue to be studied and admired by practitioners, students, and
When asked to describe one of the achievements in Fine Print in
which she took particular pleasure Sandy responded: recognizing the
importance to book art of the "first simultaneous book" (1913), a
collaboration between the evocative poet Blaise Cendrars and the
Parisian colorist painter Sonja Delaunay. The poem is printed on a long
sheet, the text flanked and interwoven by the brilliant colors and
formed painted by Delaunay. Sandy says she was stunned when she saw a
copy of the original in the New York gallery of Monica Strauss, a
longtime contributing editor of Fine Print. Sandy was determined that
the work should be known and appreciated in the book world. With the
enthusiastic participation of Strauss, who wrote an introductory article
on the collaboration, and the late Steven Harvard and a subsidy from the
Meriden-Stinehour Press in Vermont, Fine Print was able to print a full-
colour fold-out reproduction of La Prose du Transiberien in the July
1987 issue. Many other examples as well of Sandy- inspired serendipity
illumine and enliven the pages of Fine Print.
Fine Print ceased publication with Volume 16, Number 3, not for
lack of good material- -Number 4 was tentatively scheduled to include,
among other material, articles on the book arts in Hungary and an
article on Coptic bindingsor of subscribers and support. But Sandy s
attempt to establish in Pro Arte Libri a non-profit organization to
serve as an umbrella for various activities relating to the book arts
including Fine Print was not successful. If she had not become
seriously ill, the project and its fund-raising efforts might well have
succeeded, for her previous accomplishments had been formidable. And
chief among those was her stewardship of one of the longest-lived
journals devoted to the arts of the book, one whose vitality and high
standards had never been compromised.
The Fine Print saga continues. Sandy has nearly completed a
detailed index to Fine Print which will immeasurably increase its use
for reference and research. The Fine Print archives in the possession
of The Bancroft Library of the University of California at Berkeley, now
being processed, will eventually be made available for study.
Containing layouts, original art work, including the plates used for
some of the covers, and extensive correspondence, the archives will form
an invaluable and unique repository. And finally, Sandy is being
interviewed by The Bancroft Library s Regional Oral History Office. The
interview includes her account of the history of Fine Print, the salient
point of which is, she says, with characteristic modesty, that she can
only take credit for recognizing and uncovering the creative talent of
others and giving them a place in print.
Robert D. Harlan
(amended and reprinted June 2001)
INTERVIEW HISTORY- -Sandra Kirshenbaum
I volunteered to conduct this interview with Sandra Kirshenbaum in
order to capture her recollections of her career in documenting the
life and times of fine printers and fine printing in the Bay Area,
California, and the world, from how she got interested in the book arts,
to the publication of the beautifully printed Fine Print journal, to
her eyewitness account of the shift from letter press printing to
Sandy was interviewed in four sessions in the front parlor of her
lovely home in San Francisco which had been in the possession of her
husband s family since 1909. The first three sessions took place on
February 22, April 30, and June 29, 1999, respectively. The fourth
session, which was taped on December 14, 1999, after the transcriptions
of the first three sessions had been reviewed by Sandy and me, includes
some material that in retrospect was thought important to be added,
including more information on Sandy s family and on the individual
issues of Fine Print, the distinguished magazine that Sandy edited and
published from 1975 to 1990. Each of the transcriptions was carefully
reviewed and revised by Sandy and me before its final text was approved.
A general outline, agreed upon by Sandy and me, was modified,
augmented, and in some cases altered as the interviews progressed.
Sandy would sometimes refer to documents at her home for specific
information, and I would sometimes check information in the Fine Print
Archives in The Bancroft Library, the University of California at
Berkeley. I have assisted in the processing of these archives as a
volunteer partly in order to inform myself before participating in these
interviews. Sandy was an articulate participant in the interviews, and
the graciousness and judiciousness exhibited during her interviews
strongly suggest to me one of the reasons for the success of Fine Print.
The Regional Oral History Office was established in 1954 to
augment through tape-recorded memoirs the Library s materials on the
history of California and the West. Copies of all interviews are
available for research use in The Bancroft Library and in the UCLA
Department of Special Collections. The office is under the direction of
Richard Candida Smith, Director, and the administrative direction of
Charles B. Faulhaber, James D. Hart Director of The Bancroft Library,
University of California, Berkeley.
Robert D. Harlan
Regional Oral History Office University of California
Room 486 The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 94720
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INTERVIEW WITH SANDRA KIRSHENBAUM
I A BOOKWOMAN S BEGINNINGS
[Interview 1: February 22, 1999] ft 1
A Printing Family in Italy; Escaping During World War II
This is Tape 1, Side 1 of interviews with Sandy Kirshenbaum.
It s February 22nd.
First, Sandy, there was life before Fine Print. Maybe
we could start with your telling us a little bit about your
background: your family, your education, your experiences,
the path that to some degree led you to begin Fine Print.
Sure. Well, I m not sure how far back you want me to go.
My involvement with books occurred over my whole lifetime.
As a child, I was an avid reader. We lived in the Portola
district of San Francisco. We had a sizeable house, which
was unusual for that area. But anyway, I always loved
books, from a small child, and I remember going to the
neighborhood branch and vowing that I would read all the
books in the children s section. So I started with A s,
which brought me to Alcott. I became fascinated by Little
Women and her other books.
I m reminded of a book called A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Do
you know that book?
And it s wonderful because this young girl, although coming
from a family with no particular money, did have access to a
good public library, and she was determined to read all of
the adult books, starting with A, and the librarian very
; This symbol indicates that a tape or tape segment has begun or
A guide to the tapes follows the transcript.
kindly directed her instead to children s books, which were
much more suitable.
I guess I meant that you might want to go back, as you did
in an earlier address, I heard, where you talk about--!
guess it was your mother s side of the family who were
lithographers in Italy.
Kirshenbaum: Yes, that s right. They had a printing business. My
grandfather was renowned for his beautiful lithographs, so I
think there s something atavistic about my interest in books
What was his name?
Yes. It was Umberto Sabbadini.
Did you say this was in Rome?
Yes. And the firm is still in existence today. It s run by
my grand-nephew, the son of one of the Sabbadini brothers.
Are they still doing lithography or more likely offset?
No, their big business is in forms. You know, like
government forms. It s not very glamorous, but I guess it s
You mentioned that your grandfather s lithography was
renowned. Was that also documents and forms and
No, he would do color lithography of little cards and saints
that the Vatican would hand out as favors. My mother was
the envy of all her little classmates because she had all
these wonderful little color lithograph things. So anyway,
that s how they got started. Later on, I guess after the
war, they had to get into a real prof it -making line, which
they did by making these forms for the government.
Harlan: So it sounds like it s in your blood.
We re going to talk with this part a little more than we did
originally about how your mother got you and two of your
siblings out of Italy in--I guess it was 1941?
Yes. My father [Leone Alfredo De Nola] had already escaped
to the U.S. under the pretense of representing Italian
manufacturers at the World s Fair of 1939. He gathered all
the goods he could find and he brought some toys and some
various ceramics and things at which Italian manufacturers
excelled. Through my mother, who perchance struck up a
conversation with a gentleman who had a patent on a tube
made of sawdust, he was going to represent this inventor at
the fair also.
Does this mean that in 1939 he thought it was probably a
good idea for you to leave Italy?
Absolutely, yes. He had already seen the writing on the
wall. The thing that really triggered him was the fact that
neither my brother nor my sister could go to school, and he
didn t want that for them, having them growing up as
ignoramuses. Education was very important to him, and there
were other restrictions on the Italian Jews. They couldn t
have maids, they couldn t own businesses, they couldn t own
land, they couldn t do anything much under what they called
the "leggi raziale", or "the racial laws" which Mussolini
imposed in 1938-1939.
I remember in that great movie, The Garden of the Finzi
Continis, that one of the lead characters was a student, and
he couldn t even use the library. He was turned away.
Kirshenbaum: That s right. Terrible. Anyway, on the pretense of going
to the 1939 World s Fair in New York, he was able to book
passage on a ship called the Vulcania. As soon as he landed
and set up his booth, he turned it over to a relative of his
that he knew there and he went to Cuba where he was able to
getand I don t how he knew this, but he knew that if you
went to Cuba you could get an entry visa from Cuba into the
U.S. It took nine months to get a visa.
So anyway, when he got back to New York, he brought the
visa and tried to get my mother [Elda Sabbadini De Nola] to
come over. It was very hard to get relatives over to the
U.S. because you had to prove that you were earning a living
and that you would not be a burden on society.
Meanwhile, my mother was left stranded in Italy, but she
had passage on a ship called the Rex, leaving from Naples.
Was this an American ship?
I don t know. Then she was lying in bed one morning and she
felt like a pressure on her head and a voice telling her to
go to Naples. My brother Albert accompanied her to the
travel agency there. He didn t want to go in because he was
embarrassed by the short pants he had to wear, so she left
him outside [chuckles]. She went in and she said, "We have
booked passage on the Rex. Is everything still all right?
How come you never mailed me the tickets?" And they said,
"Oh, I m sorry, signora, but the Rex is no longer going to
go to New York. It s been canceled because the Rex is
involved in the war, and so we need it for the Italian
troops or whatever. We ve canceled the voyage." She was
really desperate then, and she didn t know what to do. And
then when she got back to Rome she went to American Express,
which was supposed to have sent her the tickets. She saw a
sign in the window that said, "Manhattan, departing" at a
certain time. She went in and said, "Could I get on the
Manhattan?" And they said, "Oh, no, signora, sorry, but
that s only a diplomatic ship. It s only carrying out the
last of the American diplomats." So she was really
desolated, and then they said, "But you know, maybe if you
go and see Conte Ciano, he is the one that can get you on."
She went Conte Ciano s office in Milano.
Wasn t he the son-in-law of Mussolini?
Yes. She went to the building where he was, and she had to
go up several stories in the elevator to reach his office.
They would stop her on every floor, and she had to give them
a bribe each time to go up to his office. Finally she gets
to the office of Conte Ciano and of course he s not there;
he s off somewhere having a good time, I guess, and his
assistant is there. She throws herself at his mercy and
says, "Please, you have to get me on this ship." Then some
kind of little shenanigans went on, you know. He made some
fond gestures to her.
He made a pass?
Sort of, yes. Then she says that he scratched her palm,
which is sort of weird. I don t remember if she paid him a
bribe, but I m pretty sure she did. Finally she got us
booked on the Manhattan.
That s four of you, right?
Yes, four. Three children.
And you were how old then?
Just short of two years old. Because the ship was leaving
from Genoa, we had to rush up there from Rome to get to the
ship in time. She managed to get us on, and that was how we
got across the ocean.
Do you remember if there was any trouble when you landed
going through immigration?
No, because she was on a diplomatic boat [laughter] . They
never sent her to Ellis Island or anything. My older sister
and brother report that they couldn t eat the food that they
were served on the ship. One night it was announced that
the dinner menu would include pasta! I was barely a toddler
then, but my older siblings tell me that my eyes lit up when
I heard that word. The whole family was gravely
disappointed when we were served a tasteless mash of
Later, in San Francisco the family was introduced to
Irish cooking when they were invited to dinner at the home
of an Irish American businessman. There the family was
served corned beef and watery cabbage. It took many a
severe glance from my father to make sure my brother and
sister ate it all with gusto.
I can imagine why they would remember that. I m sure they
were appalled. And did your father meet your family then in
I m not sure. I think he may have been in San Francisco by
then. And she might have gone over there. I really don t
know exactly what the chronology was .
And he was employed in San Francisco.
Yes, because he had to prove that he was employed.
Father s Business Ventures in San Francisco
Do you know what his vocation was, or what he was doing?
He was a very proud man. When he was in New York he wrote
my mother long letters , and he was always infuriated that
because of the war she couldn t get any letters to him. So
he wrote to her that he had a small office in lower
Manhattan on Spring Street, but he says, "Don t worry, I
will soon go to Rockefeller Center and have a big office
there." [laughs] He was indomitable. Anyway, I don t
think he ever made it to Rockefeller Center.
Then in San Francisco I understand that he was operating
an elevator- -some measly thing like that. But he didn t
stay for long. Then he and my brother went into business
together, and as much as you see the Vietnamese people today
going around collecting cartons from department stores and
various storesand they did that. They would go to
department stores and gather all their cartons, and they had
a small plant on McAllister Street, which at that time was a
Jewish neighborhood. They had bought a baler, and they
would bale these cartons up and sell them for the war
effort. Then eventually my fatherby 1947 he already had
his own factory in South San Francisco in which he made
corrugated cartons. He called it Universal Container
Company. See, he was not small-minded at all [chuckles].
Was this in part recycling or is he starting from scratch?
First it was recycle. When he was baling, he only had a
baling machine then. Then when he moved into this wonderful
factory that they had in South San Francisco--and don t ask
me how they managed to get the funds together to build it
but my mother had something to do with that because I think
she sold some of her property in Rome.
Then they made their own corrugated boxes, and then
eventually they developed into a company that made specialty
boxes for electronic devices, and they made fruit boxes,
which had always been wood, and he managed to design a
carton that would be very strong so they could use it for
picking fruit in Santa Clara Valleyyou know, the Garden of
That s what they called it then. Now of course it s Silicon
So when you were still young your father had a heart attack.
He had a very serious heart attack. When we were in San
Francisco, and I still remember greeting him, he was in
Mount Zion Hospital, and I was down on the sidewalk. He
came to the window and waved at me. He had been a three- or
four-pack-a-day smoker. He had a heart attack at age forty-
three or forty-four, I guess, just after we got here.
But he survived?
Kirshenbaum: Yes, he did. And he did not die of heart disease until he
was about seventy years old.
Did he stop smoking?
Kirshenbaum: Yes, absolutely. Cold turkey. He never touched another
cigarette. But my mother continued to smoke. She had
asthma. Fortunately she never had emphysema, but it was
So when you were growing up your father had this factory in
South San Francisco.
Early Interest in Books and Libraries; Public School in San
Francisco and San Mateo M
That s great. So you started- -you remember even as a child
having a real interest in books.
I presume as much for the content as for the display or the
Oh, sure, strictly for content, because later on the books I
read were very sparsely illustrated. They were not like
picture books. I remember one of my favorite books was
Fables of Aesop. They had wonderful drawings in that.
Do you remember if you were pleased with the kind of help
you got from librarians?
Well, it was sort of funny, really. You know, I used to go
to the local Portola branch, where the librarian was very
stern. I have a little memoir of that, actually. So she
would shake her head and give me a "tsk-tsk-tsk-tsk"--that
kind of thing, you know.
She was an old-fashioned librarian.
Yes. And she d say, "No, you can t take this many books.
We have a limit of how many you can take." I really have a
firm memory of her because she always used to go behind the
curtain and cook her lamb chops.
[laughs] That s unusual.
So the whole library was this small branch library was
permeated with the smell of frying lamb chops.
Did that give you perhaps a distorted view of what
[laughs] But the collection was adequate. You were able to
So I started to read all through Alcott. She had quite a
few books. And then I jumped over to Heinlein. So then I
got a fascination for science fiction. I think it s Robert.
But anyway, he introduced me to the whole idea of science
fiction and living on Mars, and I just ate it up. I loved
it. So that was how I got off the track at H. [laughter]
And where did you go to high school?
Well, I went to junior high in San Francisco at Portola
Junior High, which was really multiculturaleven in those
days. There were all kinds of kids there. There were black
kids and Chinese kids and
Few Italians lived in that neighborhood then,
neighbor, who had twins she was Italian.
Did you have good teachers? Was it a good education?
Certain teachers were wonderful. I remember my sixth grade
teacher, Mrs. Harrison. She was a great inspiration to me.
I was like her pet, and all the other kids really--! and
Diane Duffy were her pets, and all the other kids were
envious of us and tried to make our lives miserable.
I m sure they succeeded to a degree.
Yes. So anyway, I still remember that she told me she
said, "Your language skills are so good. I m sure you will
be a writer." Well, I never made it to writing--! mean,
fiction. I have done lots of nonfiction writing, but I
never could get into fiction too much. I guess I didn t
have enough confidence.
Plenty of people try fiction, so I wouldn t worry about it.
And high school? Where did you go to high school, senior
Then we moved to San Mateo when I was about fifteen, and I
went to San Mateo High. They had some great teachers there,
too. I still remember the economics teacher. I can t
remember his name right now, but he was really serious about
history and economics, and he made us write essays. I still
remember I wrote an essay on Teddy Roosevelt. And I had to
do real historical research.
Sounds like another world.
Undergraduate at UC Berkeley, 1956-1959; Library School at
Carnegie University. 1959-1960
Did you go directly to college?
Yes, pretty much. I applied to UC Berkeley, and they let me
in right away. In those days, I guess it was not quite as
competitive as it is now.
I think there weren t as many applicants in those days.
So you were at UC, then, for four years?
Actually, I took summer courses, so I graduated in three
years. I would have been the Class of 1960, but I graduated
in 59. I called myself a child of the fifties because I
was raised in this very- -well, I don t know what to call it,
but it was a very straightlaced kind of thing in the
fifties. A young woman could either choose a career as a
nurse, a teacher, or a librarian, and those were the three
things that were open to a young woman. So I chose
librarian when I graduated.
What was your major in college?
Italian and Romance languagesFrench and Portuguese. They
had an excellent Italian program there. But there, again, I
think I really suffered from being a young woman, and they
didn t take me seriously. I still remember when I turned in
this wonderful essay on the poetry of Michelangelo, the
professor said, "I don t believe you wrote this." Isn t
that awful? And he said, "You must have cribbed it from
something." And I said, "No," I said, "I did research, but
I wrote it all myself." And he wouldn t believe me. So
that was just one of the few resentments that I had about
UC. And it s taken me a long time to get over it--you know,
to feel any alliance at all to UC Berkeley.
Well, it has changed a lot. And it should, of course.
So you graduated from UC Berkeley in 59.
Did you go directly to library school then?
Where did you go?
At that time I went to Pittsburgh, at Carnegie University to
the Library School there. Now it s Carnegie-Mellon. About
the time I graduated from library school--! think it was
around 60 or 61--they just cut off their library school.
They said it was because they didn t have an undergraduate
program to feed into the graduate program. That was the
excuse that they used on me. They sent it to the University
Why did you choose Pittsburgh?
Well, for one thing, my husband [Noel Kirshenbaum] was
interested in Carnegie University.
So you were married by then.
Yes. Noel and I married at an early age. He was hoping to
get into a program there that they had in metallurgy, and
then he pretty much got fed up with it, and so he moved to
Plainfield, New Jersey, where he worked for American
Smelting & Refining. That was his first job. I remained in
Pittsburgh to finish up my master s degree in library
science. At that time, they had an excellent program in
children s librarianship, but I wasn t interested. I don t
know--I felt like I missed an opportunity, really, because
they had such an excellent department in that. But I
studied to be a reference librarian, and that was very
satisfying, too. That was when I met Jack Stauffacher.
That s right. He was there to service Porter Garnett s
How did you happen to meet him?
His wife was Josephine Gremaldi. Her father and mother were
also Jewish and had been in Italy and had come over to the
U.S. at about the same time as mine, so they had met in the
Italian Jewish community here in San Francisco. I still
remember the three daughters, Laura, Josephine, and--I can t
remember the third one.
You met Jack, but I don t suppose you were cognizant or even
particularly interested in the fact that he was a fine
Not a bit, not a bit. It s amazing to me now how I could
have let that all go over my head.
How could you not? You didn t know. That is interesting.
It s a small world.
Yes. So I ve known Jack since I was a little girl.
Yes. Okay. So you got your library degree [MLS, 1960,
Carnegie Library School] . Did you get a position as a
Yes. My husband was working for AS&R [American Smelting and
Refining] in Plainfield, New Jersey, and so I marched into
the library there, to the director s office, and I offered
my services, and they snapped me up. You know, in those
days this is, I guess, in the early sixtiesthere was a
great demand for librarians. All you had to do is say,
"Yes, I have my MLS," and they would just welcome you with
open arms .
So you were a reference librarian in a special library, as
it would have been called then. Is that right?
No. It was just a public library, and I was a reference
librarian and a cataloguing librarian. That was a wonderful
preparation. In library school--! can t remember her name,
Virginia some thing- -but the teacher of the reference was a
very old-fashioned woman. She taught from this textbook
called Winchell s [Constance Winchell, A Guide to Reference
Books]. So you remember that?
Yes, oh, yes.
Every reference source would be described and tell you what
you could find in them, and you had to know all those books,
and you had to know what was in them--if it was the Annals
of American Biography or whatever, you had to know which
book to go to to get the information. Now, you just go to
the Internet and press a button and get the information you
Well, you get the information that s available. It s
different from Winchell. You were really memorizing a list
of basic sources.
Exactly, and that turned out to be very valuable.
Yes. It s somewhat painful, but it can be very valuable.
Parents Background and Influence
Let s go back for a minute and talk about maybe the
influence of your parents on your life and your directions
and your interests .
Kirshenbaum: Yes. It s interesting that my father was essentially not
educated. I mean, he maybe went to grammar school, but he
never went to higher education.
This is in Italy.
In Italy, right. When he came to this country, of course,
he was very handicapped because at forty years old, it s not
easy to learn a new language.
And he came to this country in what year?
Well, he first came to the Fair in New York in 39.
The World s Fair.
Yes. And then we went to San Francisco in 1941. Anyway, he
really wasn t formally educated. But, you know, he had a
great love of learning and books, so when he came to the
U.S., he actually brought a wonderful Italian encyclopedia,
multi-volume encyclopedia, and that was one of the treasured
things he brought. And then he had this huge history of
Italy and all these wonderful books that he had. I mean, it
was a bookish family even in the beginning.
Your family was Jewish on both sides?
Did your father read Hebrew?
And your mother did not.
Very little. And they didn t try to pursue--! mean, they
may have known a little Hebrew, but they didn t really
Were they practicing? That is, did they go to temple?
Oh, yes, yes. Especially my mother was very religious. We
observed all the holidays, and she would go to temple every
Saturday, and we would go with her. We went to Sherith
Israel, which was sort of Conservative. I still remember
they used to take us two younger ones--ray sister, Emily, and
myselfafter temple we would go to the wonderful Garden
Court of the Palace Hotel, and my sister and I would both
have turkey sandwich on white bread with mayonnaise.
That was the treat, right?
Yes, that was the treat.
Well, I think your father came from a generation that
respected learning, and I just think probably in Italy it
was highly regarded anyway.
Do you think maybe there was an even more intense interest
in learning because your family was Jewish?
I think so. You know, another thing that influenced me
greatly was the fact that my father had a limited knowledge
of English, and so he would compose letters in Italian,
saying what he wanted to say--
These were business letters?
Yes, business letters. And then he would turn them over to
me, and I would translate them and edit them.
How old were you then?
[laughs] You developed a business acumen early on.
Well, maybe not a business acumen but a language acumen, you
know, which later came to be so valuable to me, and I think
that s one reason that I grew to be such a good editor.
You got started early enough.
So in your home, you had your father s big encyclopedia.
How about your mother? What influence did she have on you?
Besides being a good mother.
Well, she was a terrifically creative woman, just wonderful.
I guess I learned a sense of style from her. She was very
stylish, small, Italian lady. She always taught me how to
dress and how to coordinate colors. I still remember she
would take me downtown, and we would go on the bus, and she
would always just dress to the nines with a hat and gloves
too and everything, and I had to wear a little hat and
gloves and so on. In those days, if you went downtown, that
was something really special, and you had to dress
When your familyparticularly your mother s familywere in
Italy, they probably had servants, didn t they?
Kirshenbaum: Oh, yes.
So when your mother came to this country, I presume there
were no servants to begin with.
But she survived.
Was she a good cook?
Oh-h-h! Wonderful! Oh, she was fabulous, fabulous. And
she used to have a New Year s Eve party every year. She
would just put our this magnificent buf fet--everything you
could have. And she would do it all herself --all the
ornamentation and the flowers and everything, and she had
the most creative mind for cooking. I don t know how,
because in Italy they had cooks. But somehow she picked it
all up. In fact, she published a cooking article, "Join Us
for Dinner in Rome". It was in the May 1962 Sunset magazine
[pp. 223-224, 226, 228, 231]. I still have a copy of it.
And she told her secrets of how she made chicken breast with
lemon caper sauce.
Were these secrets she brought from Italy, or had she
developed these herself?
These were secrets that she learned in Italy. Somehow she
absorbed them, even though she didn t do much cooking, but
she would, I guess, see what was produced in the kitchen and
visit the kitchen sometimes, so she picked up all these
wonderful things . She knew how to make the most wonderful
pasta and the pasta sauce, the meat sauce that I still make.
It was just wonderful.
Well, that s interesting. Families can be very influential.
Yes. Someday I m going to write a story of my family.
I think you should.
Librarian in New Jersey and Argentina; Husband s Career as a
Okay, let s go back to- -you re now a librarian.
Public library, doing reference work. Your husband is
engaged in his profession, which is metallurgy?
Yes. He worked for American Smelting & Refining. And he
was doing lab work for them. He would test different ores
and so on.
And that s still his business, isn t it?
No, no. He went back to school. After Argentina, he went
back to Stanford and got a degree in mineral economics, so
that s what he s been more involved in lately. He still
does some metallurgy, but mainly he s interested in--he
wrote a thesis entitled "Transport and Handling of Sulfide
Concentrates," which was subsequently published.
Was this at Stanford?
Yes. That turned out to be--he sold quite a number of
copies of that because it was a matter of interest because
sulfide concentrates can be subjected to autogenous heating.
It s self -created heating, and it was a real problem for
ships carrying ores. He did a whole study. Visited all
these different ports where they transported ores, and he
took pictures of the way they handled the ores, which was
really sloppy. So that s how he got off into the
interesting area of mineral economics.
And this led you, then, to your next move, which was to
Argentina. For whom did Noel work there?
Yes. The Agency for International Development, or AID.
You went there in what year?
And you were there for two years?
Yes. And there I pursued my career, and I could do it
because we had a servant. So I could leave the children in
her care and go off and work in a library two days or three
days a week for a few hours .
What kind of library was it?
It was very interesting,
It was like a prototype public
Yes, in Cordoba. And it was the only public library in the
whole city. At a certain point, there was a president of
Argentina who was very interested in libraries and
education. His name was Arturo Illia. So anyway, he
established a lot of these public libraries that were
sprinkled around. He was kind of like an Argentine Andrew
Carnegie. So when I went there and I offered my services
gratis, they thought I was some kind of crazy American lady.
And my Spanish was not that good at that time. But I
quickly picked it up. I d say within a year I was really
speaking well. This was when I was still in my twenties,
twenty-six. Later people asked me where I had learned to
speak such good English! I even had a Cordobes accent.
So they decided you weren t crazy after all.
No. And I helped them to catalog and to weed out the
Well, anyway--you see, in Argentina everything is political,
so the head of the library was an old fellow who had
previously been in the bureaucracy in the government. I
forget what his position was, but obviously they wanted to
get rid of him, so they shuffled him off to be the director
of the library. The poor old guy was, I m sure, not
completely blind but legally blind, and so when I went into
his office it was always dark. He was a funny old guy
because he took himself very seriously. I said I wanted to
help cataloguing. They had stacks and stacks of books that
had just been dumped in the bottom of the library there, in
Were these books that came from some central agency, or were
they just books that they had?
They were just books that they had.
So many of them probably weren t very useful for a public
Kirshenbaum: That s right.
The usual problem with gifts.
Yes. Well, we tried to weed out all the ones that were not
up to date or not really right.
Let me just check here. [tape interruption]
You mentioned you were cataloguing these,
original cataloguing or copy cataloguing?
What we did was use Dewey. I and the other members of the
cataloguing group, such as it wasabout three or four of
us, I guess, doing the cataloguing. And boy, were they ever
sticklers! They would argue endlessly about whether it
should be 120.101 or 102 or 103 or whatever. Oh, it just
used to drive me crazy! They loved to argue about fine
points like that. So we would go down the basement and work
on these books, and we would argue over what kind of Dewey
number we should choose for them.
And then they would have a break. In midmorning they
would have their coffee break, and they would just put
everything away, and they d bring out these hard biscuits.
They were really heavy with grease. They would eat those
and would endlessly go on having coffee. They would finally
get back to work, and then, of course, there was lunch.
[ laughs ]
So it was all a very interesting experience,
managed to get the work done.
But somehow we
What kind of people were using the public library, this
library, this prototypical public library?
I think it was a variety of people.
Was it popular?
Yes, it was. The test that this old bureaucrat put to me--
he said, "If I can go to the catalog, card catalog, and find
the book I want, then I ll know that you ve done a good
job." So sure enough, he went through the catalog and found
the book he wanted.
You were using the Dewey Decimal System, so you had a Dewey
manual with you?
There was a 1955 official Spanish language translation of
the Dewey Decimal classification manual. Did you have
access to it? Could they read English?
Gee, I don t think they could, so maybe it was in Spanish.
Somehow this environment sounds very Spanish.
Oh, definitely, yes, because, you know, it was a
bureaucratic thing from top to bottom.
Oh, yes. I think so. So you chipped away at this backlog.
But you were also providing reference serviceor were you?
Yes, I was. I mean, I would go up into the reading room,
and I would help people, whoever came in, in a kind of
casual way. I would show them how to use the catalog or
whatever. And then when I left Cordoba, they had a special
dinner for me, and they gave me--I still have itthey gave
me a fancy certificate of service to Cordoba and so on, and
they had a celebration dinner for me. It was very touching.
I m sure they came to appreciate what you had done for them.
Settling in the Bay Area; Two Years on the East Coast
So you left Argentina.
Is that when you came to the Bay
Sixty- six. Yes, we came back to the Bay Area, and my
husband returned to Stanford, and we lived in Menlo Park.
We lived right on the border of Atherton. We had a small
house there. And then Noel studied mineral economics and
also took courses in the Business School. I remember my son
was very young then. I took him to the Bing Nursery School
at Stanford on a bicycle. Both of the children just went
back into the American way.
Had they picked up Spanish in Argentina?
I was sorry that they
Oh, they were perfectly bilingual,
never maintained it.
Yes, that s too bad.
It is too bad. But, you know, at a certain point my little
son, whothen, when we came back, he was just barely three,
he had a problem with hearing, and so he was having a real
frustration with not being able to express himself in
Spanish or in English, so I had to quit trying to speak
Spanish to them. They really didn t want to accept Spanish
from me, who had always been their source of English.
We had a bit of culture shock then. The first thing I
saw when we were exiting the airport was a sign saying "No
admission without shoes." I thought of the many shoeless
people I had seen in Peru because they couldn t afford
shoes; their feet were all leathery and grey. 1 thought,
Why would anyone go barefoot by choice? We had had our
first taste of the hippie movement of the mid-sixties.
So your husband was at Stanford, then, for how long?
Let s see. That would have been 66 when we came back. He
stayed there a couple of years, so I guess it would have
been around "69 that we left.
Was he in a degree program?
Yes, he got a degree in engineering, engineer of mines,
which is really inappropriate because it was really an
Okay. So you re back in the San Francisco area, raising
your children, and your husband is going to school.
What would you say the next event was that brought you back
to the world of books? It must have been later, wasn t it?
No. At that time I worked in the Menlo Park Public Library.
Oh. As a volunteer or employed?
No, I was employed. I was, I guess, what you d call a
community service librarian. I mean, I would gather as much
information as I could about the community of Menlo Park,
and we had a file of all the things about the history of
Menlo Park and all that, and that was my main interest
there. And I also worked with children, as children s
I expect that Menlo Park has changed since then.
I guess. And then, of course, we lived right next door to
Atherton. Actually, we were in the border of Atherton, so I
went to the Atherton Public Library all the time with my
children. We would just walk there, and we would just load
up on picture books and every kind of book, and then we
would come home. They did a lot of reading. At a certain
point, they learned to read themselves! I mean, at the age
of three or four, they already knew how to read. And I was
really mad because I couldn t read to them anymore. They
wouldn t let me. [laughter]
Then my husband, Noel, got a position with a major
mining company, Copper Range, in their New York City office.
Okay. Now, I think that at some point you got into the
commercial aspect of books. Didn t you work for an auction
company? Is that next?
That s correct. It was California Book Auction.
And they still exist, of course.
Yes. Well, now they call themself Pacific Book Auction.
That s right.
What happened was when we came back to San Francisco, I
think it was around 1970, andlet s see. Where did we
live? I m going blank on it.
It s okay.
So anyway, we lived back East in a suburb of New York, in
Was this after you came back from Argentina?
And after he went to Stanford?
Right. Then he took a job working for Copper Range, a major
mining company. They had copper mines at the top of
Minnesota there. And so I spent a couple of years as a
suburban wife. My husband would go- -every morning he would
get on the train, and he would go to New York to the big
building, and he would go up to the thirtieth floor or
whatever and work in this office. And I would stay home and
be the suburban mother. And I hated it! It was awful.
You know, we lived in a real suburban kind of place.
You know, every house was like our house, and every lawn was
like our lawn. We had unspoken lawn competition [laughs].
You know, your lawn had to be as nice and as green as your
neighbor s so that you wouldn t have a line where your lawn
was all weed-ridden and yellowed, and theirs was lush and
green. So that was my lawn episode time, when I had to take
care of the lawn and make it green. And I handled a lot of
fungicides at that time, and I wonder if that isn t the
fungicide is very closely related to non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
I don t know if there would be a connection because it s so
many decades later, but--
It s a possibility. So it s one more reason you can look
back on that period without pleasure.
But anyway, I did find a job in the Stamford, Connecticut,
Public Library. That was a very nice experience.
It was a good library, I ll bet.
Oh, it was very good. I was a cataloguing librarian. I had
a boss who was the L.C. cataloguer. She was so frustrating
because she was kind of like a middle-aged lady, but she had
graduated from library school not very long before, so she
was very insecure, and she would never let me do anything,
you know? And she would always be hanging over me. "Are
you sure this is the right thing?" And "You just didn t do
that right and didn t do this right." It was so
You were there for how long?
Just a couple of years. And then in 1970 we came back to
the Bay Area.
Cataloging Auction Books for Maurice Powers
I expect you were glad to get back.
Yes, I was very, very glad. So when we got back, I again
tried to find a library job. At that time, there was a real
glut. In the early seventies there was a real glut of
librarians, and everybody wanted to be a librarian in San
Francisco, and so I cast around, and then my mother-in-law
said, "You know that there is a"--and I don t know how she
knew this, but she said, "There is a gentleman who is
starting up a book auction company here in San Francisco,
and he s looking for a cataloger for the books . "
And this was?
This was Maurice Powers.
Well, that was nicely timed, wasn t it?
It was perfect. I guess I was his only employee for a
while. He had the balcony upstairs where we peons would
work on cataloguing the books, and that s where I was really
introduced to a fantastic variety of books. Of course,
their earliest auctions were based on the Wells Fargo
collection, so it was heavily into western--
This was a collection at the Wells Fargo Corporation?
That they decided to get rid of?
Yes. And that was the basis of the whole book auction
thing. And it had been started by Maurice Powers s brother,
and when he died, he took it over around 1970.
It s interesting that they would have got rid of that
library because they have a history room.
Well, I don t really know. But they may have--
Decided they didn t want it.
Or something. Or they wanted to emphasize some
accoutrements like stagecoaches.
I think they didn t want to emphasize books.
So you found in this collection probably some early San
And I still have a complete set of all the catalogs we
And were you working with someone else in the cataloguing?
No, by the seat of my pants, literally.
Oooh! And did you have sources you could refer to, like
auction catalogs and that sort of thing?
Well, that s what I did. I started reading all the auction
catalogs I could get my hands on, or all the bookseller
catalogs I could get my hands on.
Did you have access to indexes to catalogs? Book Prices
Current, for example?
Yes, Book Prices Current, right. By reading the catalogs, I
would learn things, like how you describe a rare book and
which bibliography is in.
This really is seat of your pants, isn t it?
Yes, absolutely. I had no idea what I was getting into, but
I had to learn how to catalog rare books. We catalogued
everything from presidential documents to cartoons.
You must have had manuscripts, too. Some?
Some, yes. And then I made some colossal errors, of course.
I once catalogued a pamphlet fromwell, let s say it was a
Caxton, okay? So I looked it up in a bibliography of Caxton
or whatever it was, and by golly, this was it! It looked so
perfect. It had all the right page numbers and everything,
and I said, "Wow!"
A Caxton! Yes, wow! So I catalogued it--
As a Caxton.
--as a Caxton. And sure enough, after a few days that the
catalog had been out, in comes Barney Rosenthal. He said,
"I m curious about the Caxton that you ve got. Could you
show it to me?" So I proudly took it out, and then he took
ten seconds to look at it, and he says, "Oh, this is a
Grolier Club facsimile." Oh, boy, was I ever--I was so
embarrassed. But, you know, it was a very good facsimile.
The only thing, of course, that gave it away immediately was
the paper. So that was my first embarrassment.
Harlan: He also knew there was a Grolier Club facsimile, obviously,
Kirshenbaum: Oh, yes, so he knew right away. That was wonderful. I
found out what a real bookman looks for, you know?
Harlan: Right. He was a nice person to tell you of this mistake.
Kirshenbaum: Absolutely. He was so kind, and he says, you know, "Don t
bother. Don t worry. It s okay." And I was so
Harlan: Well, you learned something there.
Harlan: So I expect you learned a lot in a hurry, didn t you?
Kirshenbaum: Absolutely. I had to. What else could I do?
Harlan: And you really didn t have a mentor, did you, someone you
could turn to?
Kirshenbaum: Not really, no.
Harlan: Not at the firm.
Kirshenbaum: No. And I ll tell you what I did do was I made a friend of
Steve Corey, who at that point was working on the Grabhorn
Collection at the San Francisco Public Library, so he and I
became pals. We just formed a sort of instantaneous
friendship. He would come over and look at our books for
sale, and I would go over to the library and see the
collection he was working on, which was the Grabhorn
Collection, so that was how I met Steve.
Harlan: So it was on-the-job training [laughs].
Kirshenbaum: Yes, absolutely. And, you know, in the catalogs they would
put "not in"--
Harlan: Which supposedly indicates the rarity of a book because it
isn t listed in a "standard" source. Often misleading.
Kirshenbaum: Yes, I learned about the importance of "not in." [laughter]
So you were there for how long?
Well, I guess it was just a couple of years. And I really
got to be very good. I learned how to be an auctioneer. 1
still remember in the early auctions--Warren Howell would
come in. I remember Maurice Powers said, "I want Warren
Howell to get to know you and to call you by your first
name. It s very important for us to be in with Warren
Howell." He would come to the auctions. He would sit in
the first row. He would smoke, and he would bid. He was
very gruff in manner, so I was really intimidated by Warren
Which is what he wanted.
[laughs] But that s an experience, too,
you by your first name?
Did he ever call
I think at a certain point he did, and then, you know- -I
still remember when I ran into him at the Book Club [of
California] . That was after I had already left the Book
Auction. And he wanted to hire me. At that time, I had
ideas about Fine Print, and so I was not interested in going
on with him. But, you know, it probably would have been
fascinatingand maybe very instructive about the book
business. [tape interruption]
So you decided not to work for him.
II THE GENESIS OF FINE PRINT
The People of Fine Print, Circa 1973
Now, was this when you began to germinate the idea of Fine
Yes. What happened was I was working on all these kinds of
books, and then I noticed that there were some especially
beautiful books, so then I thought, "Well, I could be my own
bookseller, and I could specialize in these wonderful
handmade books" that were in existence, and I had never
known about them before. You know, books from the Grabhorn
Press, even, I didn t know about. There were people making
fine booksJack Stauffacher and Adrian Wilson. Those were
all things that I had not known about. So then I said,
"Gee, I could become a bookseller on my own, and I would
specialize, and I would call myself The Book Beautiful."
[laughs] Well, that s nice.
Isn t that awful? [laughs]
Were you thinking about opening a shop or just working from
Working from catalogs . And then Gale Herrick introduced me
to an old San Francisco family called Broder. The Hestahl
sisters there were two sisters, Eleanor and Dorothy.
Eleanor loved children s books, and so they collected for
many years these wonderful children s books, and meanwhile
their father formed a fine collection of western Americana.
The house was just full of books. It s down on McAllister
Street, and I haven t talked to the Broders for a long time.
Dotsy Broder, Dorothy Broder was her name. They had this
big mess of books children s books and historic books and
all kinds. Gale Herrick introduced me to them, and I was
able to work for them, trying to catalog the various aspects
of their library and put out catalogs for sale. So that was
how I really got started on my own.
Harlan: And you did issue a catalog?
Kirshenbaum: Yes, I did issue two or three different catalogs on
children s books and on humor.
Harlan: I remember that, yes.
Harlan: And so you were their agent, selling their books through
Harlan: Now, when you decided to become a dealer in specialized
books and you issued catalogs, what did you use for a
Kirshenbaum: [laughs] Gosh, I don t know. Somehow, I don t know.
Harlan: Could you have gotten a hold of the list of the Book Club of
Kirshenbaum: Yes, that was it. Yes, 1 started with the Book Club, and
then I started reading a monthly list of antiquarian book
sales. And I picked up a lot of names there, so I had a
whole list. I knew which booksellers were expert in
children s literature .
Harlan: Yes, and you would send them a catalog.
Harlan: Do you remember how- many copies of the catalog you had
Kirshenbaum: Maybe five hundred, not very many.
Harlan: How did the sales go?
Kirshenbaum: They went gangbusters. They really did, because they were
really wonderful, and the prices were so reasonable, and
they were wonderful books. I still remember Peter Hanff.
At that time, he was forming his Oz collection. He came
over and he--and he also had an interest in Chicago
publishing, and so he came over and snapped up all my Oz
You probably- -you may have been conservative in your
You could have asked for more, but--
Oh, yes, but--
The family was happy, the Broders?
Yes, they were very happy. And then--I forget the name of
that Chicago publisher.
I think it s Way and Williams.
Yes, Way and Williams. It was a whole little group in
That s right.
Yes. So that opened my eyes to a whole other thing, which
was that trade books that were originally trade books could
have a lot of value, yes.
So you issued a catalog of children s books and one of
Any others from that collection?
No, because--! don t think we did any other catalogs because
then I did things differently because at that point I was
offering them privately to libraries. My great coup with
that collection came when Dotsy Broder went into a cupboard
and brought out a big folder of photographs of "Yo Semite"
by Carleton Watkins. These were large plate photographs,
and I gulped when I saw the date, the 1870s. I muttered
something about needing to investigate more and promptly
found that these Carleton E. Watkins photographs had great
value, especially those of Yosemite. This was just at the
time that photographia started to skyrocket. I sold it
privately to the University of Arizona photo collection for
$14,000. The Broders were very pleased and we even had a
champagne toast over the deal. Of course, these days the
volume would probably be worth at least $400,000.
Excuse me. The San Francisco Public has a collection. Did
they have that collection of children s books yet? George
Fox s father gave to them?
So they were interested in children s books. They must have
gotten some of those books.
Kirshenbaum: Yes, I think they did, yes.
This is Tape 2, Side 1 of the Sandra Kirshenbaum interview.
We now, I think, have arrived to the genesis of Fine Print.
You have this interest and background now in dealing with
rare books and older books and some finely printed books,
and had decided that you want to do more. Why did you
decide that you should try for a periodical, considering the
investment of time and money that you d have to put into it?
Or didn t you realize when you started how much work it
No, I did not realize it at all. 1 guess when I was working
at the Book Auction and trying to making a shift into being
an independent bookseller at the same time, I started
noticing these different kinds of books and that I realized
that these beautiful books were being made right now.
It wasn t just old books.
No. They were wonderful books- -from the Janus Press and the
University of Iowa and--
And locally, too.
And locally, yes and everything. So I said to myself, in
my librarian-like way, right?--"Goodness, there s no
bibliographic control of these books!" [laughs]
And you were right.
[laughs] I was right. So I said, "Oh, I must put out some
kind of publication that will give these books some
bibliographic description so that there can be proper
bibliographies of them."
We should mention that there was no bibliographic control
because these were limited editions, most were expensive.
So they don t appear in things like CBI [Cumulative Book
Index] and Publishers Weekly. And some of them aren t even
copyrighted because of the requirement for deposit of the
two copies, so they were just sort of lost.
That s right.
And the only source I can think of that might have mentioned
them maybe would be something like The Book Club of
California Quarterly News-Letter, but it wasn t systematic.
No, it wasn t. So there was nobody, no bibliographic
control. So that was my thought. I said, "Gee, here s a
big gap in the bibliography control. Maybe I could fill it
with a little newsletter or something that would list all
the fine books . "
At this point you were aware of the printers then at work
outside of the Bay Area, but you probably hadn t met any of
them, had you?
That s right.
And corresponded with them?
You just knew they were out there because you had seen their
Exactly. There was no network. There was no contact. The
Grabhorns might not be aware of the books that are being
produced in Nebraska or Iowa or in Connecticut or whatever--
in New York and around. And so--
Not only the printers wouldn t be aware, but certainly
booksellers and librarians would not be aware, and even
people who thought they were cognoscenti wouldn t be aware.
That s right. So I saw this huge gap,
could step in and fill it.
and I decided that I
Introductions to Steve Corey. Herb Kaplan, and the Grabhorn-
So you had this modest publication [laughs].
Right. And then, of course, my contact with Steve Corey
stimulated me because he was very interested in fine
printing and all that. I mean, I had no inkling, really.
Was he still at the San Francisco Public Library or had he
moved on to Gleeson by then?
No. And that was an interesting little episode, too,
because I applied for a job as a special collections
librarian at the University of San Francisco. Yes, the
Gleeson Library, exactly. And they were looking for someone
to head up their special collections. So I innocently made
my application, and I was interviewed. But I didn t know
that Steve Corey had an inside track.
He certainly did.
[laughs] Because he was friends with Father [William J.]
Monihan. And so, you know, he had an easy entree into that
position. And so I lost out. But meanwhile, he and I
became friends, so I didn t really begrudge him because I
could see that he was a fine person for the position. We
still had made contact over his coming over to the Book
Auction to see what books I had, and I would go over to the
Public Library to read their bibliographies so I could learn
something about how to catalog things.
I still remember we made a trip by automobile. He and 1
just went to visit a wonderful bookseller in Sacramento.
His name was Herb Kaplan. Anyway, we went to visit this
bookseller and, of course, knowing Steve, on the way we had
to stop at this wonderful winery to get the pick of this
special dessert wine, right. And we had to buy a couple of
bottles of that. So he introduced me to the whole idea of
collecting wines! [Laughs]
He was a dangerous person!
Yes. So I fortunately did not fall for that part.
His collecting interest. So anyway, we visited Herb Kaplan.
And he had quite a collection, right?
Oh, yes, he had a fabulous collection. He had a lot of
western Americana, and so my husband was very interested in
his collections and made some good buys from him. The main
thing that he had was a virtually complete collection of
Mining And Scientific Press, which was first published here
in San Francisco.
Right, a major, important journal.
Absolutely important. He offered it for sale to my husband,
and my husband stupidly turned it down. He thought it was
too expensive, so he only bought a few copies, and then he
acquired some other copies from other sources. But that was
one of his major faux pas.
Well, we all learn. You can t easily find a complete run
now. If you did, it would be prohibitively expensive.
Sure. So anyway, that s how I got to know Herb, Herb
Well, now, you re becoming aware of all of this. Did you
visit the Grabhorns, or was it Grabhorn-Hoyem then?
Kirshenbaum: I was aware of the Grabhorn Press. I can t remember if I
actually visited the press before it became Arion [Press] or
Grabhorn-Hoyem, even. I think at a certain point it was
Grabhorn-Hoyem, and that s when I went to visit it. I also
remember that they had made a wonderful movie about the
I don t know that .
And they showed it at the San Francisco Public Library.
I wonder where that is, that movie. Hmm.
I don t know. But it was one of the last things they did.
And then, of course, one brother died- -I forget whether it
was Robert or--
Ed died first.
Ed, yes. And then Robert went in with Andrew Hoyem to form
Harlan: Now, at this point, did you know or visit either Jack
Stauffacher or Adrian Wilson?
Kirshenbaum: Well, I knew Adrian Wilson. Of course, I had lost contact
completely with Jack Stauffacher. I didn t know until later
that he was still printing and doing wonderful books and all
that. But because Adrian Wilson lectured at a meeting of
was it the Book Club of California?
Harlan: Probably. Would you have been invited to the Roxburghe Club
of San Francisco, to a presentation? Were women allowed
Kirshenbaum: No, not at that point. That s why we started the Colophon
Club. So anyway, Adrian Wilson came and lectured about his
book, about the design of books. He completely captivated
me. He was a wonderful person.
Harlan: He was, yes.
Kirshenbaum: And he was a real inspiration. And he was so cooperative.
Harlan: He was a very nice person.
Kirshenbaum: Oh, absolutely. He was very kind and generous.
Harlan: Yes, yes. His wife, Joyce, was enthusiastic.
Harlan: And generous.
Harlan: Sometimes a bit intimidating, but that s all right.
Kirshenbaura: Sure. She was great. She was a personality.
Harlan: She was a personality, and she had been an actress.
Kirshenbaum: Yes, I know. I actually saw her whenthis was before I
knew herwhen she played the Madwoman of Chaillot .
Harlan: That s right, for the Interplayers.
Kirshenbaum: Yes. And that s when they got started printing.
Harlan: It s very interesting.
It all connects somehow.
So you and Steve are chums, and you visit a place like
Kaplan s. You become more aware of fine presses-
And you are still pursuing this idea of some sort of
Well, I still remember--we were driving on the highway going
back home, and I decided to unburden this idea on him and
see if he thought it was an important idea. I wanted to
pursue it, but I was very hesitant about this, and I wasn t
sure it was really needed and that people would want it, so
I discussed it with him on the drive back. I said, "You
know, I have this idea about doing maybe a quarterly
listing, a newsletter about these books." And he said,
"Wow! That s a great idea! And I ll help you any way I
can." You know how Steve was. He would be so enthusiastic
about something. So I said, "Wow! Isn t this great? I
have a cohort now, someone who really wants to do this."
Meeting George Ritchie and Linnea Gentry; Starting with $800
And then Steve Corey introduced me to George Ritchie and
Do you remember where this happened?
At the--at that time the Grabhorn-Hoyem Press.
You had gone to visit?
And they were both working there?
Yes. Absolutely, yes. I still remember them. They were in
their early twenties. Very young. I still remember Linnea
being a very forceful personality. She would wear these
heavy shoes and go clomping across the floor, being very
officious. I think you had to be that way with Andrew
because he was not easy on women.
And George was such a circumspect, cautious person.
Exactly, yes. And the two of them--
I think with those threewith Steve and George and Linnea--
you had very different personalities.
And it probably presented you with a nice balance because
they had different perspectives, and they were all valuable.
That s right, definitely. Because what did I know about
And what did they know about bookselling?
They knew nothing about bibliography, so I was very
meticulous about the bibliographical control. You will see
that in the early issues of Fine Print the books are very
So did you talk to them at this meeting about this project?
Yes. And then when Steve said that they were interested, so
then we all met here in this room.
This very living room.
Yes. The three of us got together- -
This would be what?-- 74, 75?
No. Maybe it would have been 73. Yes, 73. Or maybe 74.
Because, you know, then I stopped working as a bookseller
because I just got really involved in this idea of
publishing a newsletter about fine printing. So I pretty
much abandoned my bookselling efforts. But I did have a
wonderful training with the Broder Collection, and the
Watkins photographs .
There weren t very many auction records, but I had read
about the fact that all these prices for photography were
going up, and so at a certain point I learned what things
were going for at that time, just when the photography
business was just taking off, and so I set a price of
$14,000, which was an incredibly--! mean, they were just in
delight, the Broders were. They just loved it.
Harlan: It was probably snapped up, wasn t it?
Kirshenbaum: Well, yes, it was snapped up by--and I contacted various
libraries that I knew had collections, and I sold it to the
University of Arizona collection at Tucson, where they have
a fabulous collection of American photography.
Harlan: Oh, do they?
Harlan: That s interesting. So I m sure they were glad to get it.
Kirshenbaum: Oh, yes.
Harlan: Well, you hear stories about people going to closets and
pulling out things, but it doesn t happen very often.
Kirshenbaum: No, it sure doesn t.
Harlan: It s a nice cap to your career as a bookseller.
Kirshenbaum: It was absolutely wonderful, of course. And then my share
of the cost of it--I mean, the selling price, was enough to
give me a little extra money.
Harlan: So this was a stimulus for you to say, "I m going to start
now with this newsletter."
Kirshenbaum: Well, that was some of it. And then my mother, God bless
her, she gave me $800 to start Fine Print. She was my first
patron. She was a wonderful woman. I started very
modestly. My share of the sale of that collection was not
that great because I didn t charge them very much.
Harlan: But it was money you didn t previously have.
Kirshenbaum: Yes, that s right.
Harlan: So, okay, the interest was there. You had done some
reconnoitering, and you decided there wasn t anything like
what you proposed to do.
Harlan: You had some extra money.
And you had found these three young, enthusiastic people to
help you put out the newsletter.
How could you not go ahead and do it?
That s right, yes.
Well, that s interesting. So we re now at this threshold of
a new world. You don t really have any idea of how much
work it s going to entail or how much it s going to cost?
That s right.
So were those factors in your starting out with this modest
Absolutely, yes, because--! mean, how could you have big
plans? I only wanted to do a little newsletter. In fact,
Fine Print was originally called "a newsletter." We did
these little bibliographic descriptions of these fine books,
which somehow--! can t remember exactly how I managed to get
people to send them to me.
Right, because then we get into production aspects of this.
If you re going to review fine-press books, you have to see
You can t afford to buy them.
That was one thing we said, was the only way you can get a
review in Fine Print is to send us a copy.
And were these usually returned to the printers?
Yes. And then we promisedwell, first of all, we promised
to return them if they were not reviewed. We made sure that
we wouldn t think that we were trying to gobble up fine-
press books and then not review them, so any book that we
did not review, we would send back.
But then the question is: How did you get into the network
with all of these fine printers? How did you get in the
list of fine printers?
Well, it was very slow going. But, you know, I made
contacts with people like Clair Van Vliet early in her
career, when she had just done a very few books. She did
one that was The Bucket Rider by Franz Kafka.
So anyway, somehow I made contacts with, well, people
like Adrian Wilson, who knew where people were doing
printing, and then I still remember going to the Book Club
and talking about my idea, and George Harding was there.
The venerable George Harding? !
Yes! He was very skeptical.
Well, he was cautious remember, he was a treasurer of a
large corporation, so he was used to saying "No!" [laughs]
Right. So he tried to squelch me, really, because he said,
"Oh, what do you think you re going to do?" He says,
"You ve got a tiger by the tail." Quotes. I mean, that s
exactly what he said, "You ve got a tiger by the tail." But
I said, "Gee, I don t know. It s no tiger. I m just going
to have this little newsletter that s going to do
bibliographic descriptions of fine books." So my ambitions
were not great, and I had no idea of the broader picture of
book artsprinting, typography, type design, book binding,
paper making, calligraphy.
These things you all moved into eventually.
Process and Content for Early Issues of Fine Print
Well, okay. And, of course, I suppose George and Linnea and
Steve would have had awareness of other fine presses, just
because they were all interested in this. So you decided
that this was to be called Fine Print. Was it subtitled, A
Yes, A Newsletter for the Arts of the Book.
And you decided that well, maybe how much copy you had.
Also, perhaps, you were trying to control costs. There
would not be a lot of pages; it would be eight pages to
Right. The four of us then met as a group.
And you had a table with these books on the table, and you d
review them, right?
We would do editorial work. We d just get out a card table
and we d go over to Linnea s houseoh, where was she living
then? She was living with her first husband in a house--oh,
I don t remember exactly where it was. But anyway, we can
find that out easily enough. We just set up a card table
there, and we would be going over things that we wanted to
put in the magazine.
Was it kind of by consensus?
review this book" or--
You d say, "We don t want to
We were very undiscriminating. Any book that came in that
wanted to be listed, we would do it, so that led us, really-
-and then we started being more selective. We had selected
press booksbecause frankly some of the first books that
came in were really hideous .
[ laughs ]
And it was very embarrassing, then, and that was one thing
that we did almost from the beginning, was that we were very
critical of the printing and all that.
Okay. I m looking here at an early issue. I see this is
Volume 2, Number 1, 1976. And you already have a lead
article which is about artistic bookbinding of Philip Smith
by Eugenie Candau.
Yes, artist of the book.
With black-and-white photographs, so you ve already become
And you ve got an article here on French bookbinders and
news from European presses.
And letters to the editor already, sometimes complaining,
and "Recent Press Books," and "Works in Progress."
So already you obviously have a network of information. And
"Shoulder Notes," which is sort of chatty.
Then we had "Corey s Queries," too.
And "Reference Shelf," you know? It s already become much
more than just a review of fine-press books, although that
certainly is the focus.
So within one year, this whole thing has exploded, really.
It may be that what you found was that all these people out
there were eager to be noted and quite willing to cooperate
Absolutely, yes. That was wonderful. And I still remember
that among the first printers that I got in touch with was
Clair Van Vliet, and she was very cooperative. She sent me
these wonderful booksand without knowing who I was at all.
I mean, I could have just swallowed them up, you know? And
she trusted me. And then the other person who was very
helpful was Harry Duncan. He just automatically sent me
these wonderful books that he printed.
Was he in Omaha, or was he in Iowa?
Well, I know he left the Cumminston Press in New England.
He would have gone to Iowa first, I think, and then gone to
Okay. So you already have Clair Van Vliet, who was and is
one of the leading fine printers, who was eager to
You had Harry Duncan, who was kind of an elder statesman,
really, of the whole movement.
And I think probably the word just got around, don t you
Oh, sure. I think they were starved for attention. I mean,
they couldn t really--they had no place to advertise or sell
their books, and we provided them with a venue for recording
what they had produced.
Yes. We should probably at this point talk about the- -well,
it s more than a convenience; it s an asset that Andrew
Hoyem was involved with you in the printing.
Yes, absolutely. That was a wonderful thing.
He had just really started his own career, I think.
Well, of course, he-
Bob Grabhorn died I forget when--
I think he died in the early seventies [June 14, 1973],
which was just when I was trying to start Fine Print. It
was really--you know, of course, George and Linnea were
there. So I engaged Andrew as the printer. He actually
designed the first issue, which was a wonderful thing. I
still love that wonderful ornament that he put right in the
And he used these wonderful incline capital letters,
designed by an Englishman named John Peters.
Harlan: Okay, go ahead.
And then he had a Goudy ornament right in the middle,
between the two words, Fine Print. And it was just a smash.
It was a wonderful design. So I think a lot of people,
especially if they knew anything about letterpress printing
Harlan: Okay, go ahead.
If you can remember where we were! We were talking about
the first issue and how very attractive it was.
Yes. Anyway, I should say that my vision was very limited,
and it was only with the help of Linnea and Steve and George
that I opened my eyes to this wonderful world. They really
showed me the path.
Did you decide from the beginning that it should be a
Okay. I m just curious now. You set up a budget for the
first year, or how did you work that? Or was it sort of
just issue by issue?
It was issue by issue.
So Andrew gave you a budget, how much it would cost to
Yes. And Andrew was very lenient.
Because the pricing-
Yes, he was. And so--you know, he didn t charge us too
much. Then later on, of course, he had to raise his prices,
and then when he did that, I just couldn t handle it,
really. That was when Linnea took over and started printing
The banner of each of the issues is different.
Was that Andrew s idea?
Geez, I can t remember whose idea it was. But whatever, we
started out having a different designer, actually, for each
issue. Different people were invited to design different
issues. And that became very cumbersome and difficult.
But it was a distinctive feature.
I know, but still, we couldn t maintain that because, of
courseespecially if you were doing Linotype. You know,
you had to reset everything, and it just was untenable, so
eventually we just restricted ourselves to having the
graphic artists, printers, whatever designing the cover, and
we maintained the design inside the same, which was actually
designed by Linnea Gentry.
So at the end of the first year, you had four issues out.
You found that there were plenty of books to review.
There s interest. How about subscribers? Did you have as
many as you wanted?
Well, it was almost instantaneous. I mean, the response to
it was amazing. And all of a sudden, people were saying,
"Oh, we ve been needing this for a long time," and they were
so happy that we--we were happy, too, that they were very
Did you count on word of mouth, or had you sent out PR
material, the solicitations?
Well, we did. We sent out solicitations, and we used
various mailing lists--! guess, the Book Club of California.
Even then, I guess we got some other mailing lists. I think
the Guild of Bookworkers and so on.
Did you find interest on the part of libraries?
You know, it was a little tough to get into libraries.
It takes a while, yes.
Because they are very leery of these publications that pop
up and then flop.
[laughs] Yes, the processing is expensive.
Yes. Finally, we got a good review from the fellow who was
doing magazine reviews, and his name escapes me now. But he
was doing magazine reviews.
I think that was Bill Katz. Does that sound familiar?
Yes. In Library Journal. And so he gave us a very
favorable review, so that was how we started getting an
entree into various libraries.
So it sounds to me like at the end of the first year you had
reason to be proud of what you had done and satisfaction, I
Exoandine the Size and Scope of Fine Print
And so we move on from this little eight-page-per-issue
review, and new features are added, as we mentioned, so that
it becomes more than just a source of reviews of new fine-
Right. It attempts, really, to integrate all the book arts.
Right, right. I ve got a note here that-- just a minute
[goes through papers]. I m looking at my notes, and I find
that starting with Volume 2, Number 4--no, Volume 1, Number
2 it went from eight to ten pages .
And with Volume 3, Number 1 it went to twelve pages.
And with Volume 3 , Number 3 it went to fourteen pages .
And in that issue, with a four-page insert of the
calligraphy of Stephen Harvard, it s in two colors.
So this was a big step forward. This is not cheap.
Well, you know, Steve Harvard was a wonderful person. He
had this idea of writing an article, and he wanted to have
it well illustrated, so he arranged I can t remember now if
he actually printed it at the Stinehour Press. He was a
great inspiration right from the beginning.
That s interesting. Then I have a note that with Volume 4,
Number 4 it went to eighteen pages .
So within four volumes it s gone from eight to eighteen.
This indicates that you re reviewing more books and you have
other coverage as well. It s expanded.
I notice also that you quickly move and I think this was
important to youfrom a provincial coverage. It s not even
American. You re trying to get international coverage.
So I notice with Volume 3, Number 2 that you have an article
on German expressionism and also an article called "Some
Thoughts on Expressionism" by Claire Van Vliet.
I think these are crucial steps, and also the final
indication maybe of coming to age is that with Volume 5,
Number 1 you go to the new, enlarged format.
presume, more possibility for more
Which also gives, I
And more elaborate covers and more illustrations. You know,
at that time, I was heavily criticized because people liked
the small format, and they d say, "Why are you going to a
larger size? We don t like that." But I felt that was the
best way in order to maintain the costs at a relatively low
rate because, obviously, you could print more stuff on
larger pages, and you wouldn t have to pay for multiple
runs. You know what I mean? Do you understand what I m
Yes, yes, because you were also expanding the coverage, so
this was a good thing, to get more type on a page. Because
paper is expensive.
And I notice also that in the early issues you used staples.
That must have been a cause of some anxiety, too.
Oh, wow. They really turned out to be the wrong thing to do
becausebut I couldn t afford to have any sewn bindings at
that time--a lot of those staples have rusted, and the back
issues have got rust stains on them, which is very
unfortunate. But, you know, I couldn t afford anything else
at that time.
I would have loved to have sewn bindings, but--
So did you ever have sewn bindings?
Never. We always stapled them. That would have been a very
great expense. Of course, we were looking at it--I mean, we
wanted to do it, just like we wanted to get away from
letterpress and get into offset printing at a certain point
because we just felt like it was going to be too expensive
to maintain the letterpress, and it was getting scarcer and
scarcer and more expensive.
Do you remember what the subscription cost was to begin
I think it was eight dollars.
And do you also remember whether at the end of, let s say,
the first and second years, you calculate that you had
broken even or even made a profit, or was it subsidized in
the sense that it wasn t breaking even?
Fine Print never made enough money.
It was always subsidized. Many times it was my money that
went into it, or our money. I don t know if it ever could
have been profitable.
That s a very interesting statement because it says so much
about the nature of periodical publication.
Right, at least at that time, at that specialized content--
because, as I say, a lot of people never understood what it
was about, you know? I mean, what are book arts? They
didn t know.
Can you remember what the run was to begin with, how many
copies you printed?
I think it was about five hundred, eight hundred. Then it
went to a thousand. And then it stayed there until we
started getting the library subscriptions and so on. Then
it went, I think, up to eighteen hundred. And then it sort
of stalled. And at that point was when I wanted to do a big
promotion. By that time, it was the early nineties, and I
wanted to get off of letterpress and do a big promotion, do
offset printing. Steve Harvard was trying to help me to do
that, but then, of course-
He would have used the facilities of Stinehour?
Yes. And then unfortunately he died, and so we were kind of
left out in the swamp, trying to make our way through.
All Volunteers: Regular Staff and Outside Reviewers
You started with your three associates, and you were sort of
the editorial board. How long did that structure last
before people went their own ways or you added new people
or- -of course, they were not paid, were they? They were
No one was paid, I presume. You certainly weren t paid.
No, I certainly wasn t.
Andrew was paid.
Yes. The printers and the paper and the people and the
typesetting and all thatthat was paid. But I never--!
mean, I did have employees at a certain point, four of them,
But that was later, wasn t it?
Yes. And, you know, I had to offer them health benefits and
do all that sort of thing. It was just too much of a burden
for a small circulation.
Well, that s always a problem. It s constantly a problem
with book publishing, too. I remember reading an article by
a woman who was a major editor with a major press, saying
that to publish new poetry in this country was suicidal.
And she said that if a commercial printer published a book
of poetry, a new book of poetry by a relatively unknown
poet, he would be lucky to sell five hundred copies.
Well, you can t possibly break even with that.
No, that s right.
I also noted recently in the Times Literary Supplement that
Oxford University Press has stopped publishing new poetry.
They just said they can t afford it.
Yes. That s why they re going to small presses now.
But then the problem is how do they get the word out? How
do they find an audience also?
I don t know. The whole poetry business seems really--!
guess I d call it quixotic, you know? But somelike some
of the writers that I had that did poetry that we reviewed,
like Tom Gunn and Seamus Heaney and all those- -they were
wonderful poets. The fact that we reviewed them was all due
to the fact that the fine printers were on the lookout for
good work, and they were willing to publish these limited-
Did you have the impression from looking at a lot of fine
press books, even early on, that there was a lot of dreck
there, bad stuff? And you wonder why on earth it was even
Right, yes. You know, there was, like, an emphasis on these
That s right, which has always been the lodestone of fine
Over and over and over again.
Yes. And there are certain poets that they liked to beat
over the head, I guess, sometimes, like Sonnets from the
Portuguese. That was one favorite one.
Yes. And there was an earlier period when everyone was
printing [The] Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
Harlan: And Rudyard Kipling--you know, these trends would occur.
So it doesn t take long, then, for Fine Print to get an
Kirshenbaum: Yes, and we discovered that there was very good literature
and poetry being printed in limited editions.
Harlan: And to have cooperation from printers and others to help you
make a go of it. And the same way you found fine presses
you weren t aware of, you had to find reviewers- -
Harlan: --because your own staff simply- -well, couldn t keep it up,
and you probably wanted more input.
Harlan: As you found small presses and contacted them, you somehow
got a list in your mind of good reviewers for these various,
different kinds of books?
Kirshenbaum: It is amazing that I really--
Harlan: So you were amazed, too?
Kirshenbaum: Oh, yes.
Kirshenbaum: I don t know how it did it, really. I mean, you know, these
wonderful reviewersthey just came to me, and they said,
"Oh, I d like to do a review for you." People like Robert
Bringhurst and Doris Grumbach.
Harlan: Yes. You didn t pay them, did you?
Kirshenbaum: No. Very little, if anything. Sometimes, if they d like to
review a book, they would get a copy of it, and that would
be it. I mean, I m ashamed to say that we never could
afford to pay anybody, really, of our reviewers.
Harlan: Yes, and they wouldn t even get a book, would they, if
they re just writing an article for you?
But they were probably eager to do it, quite willing.
But then, again, the question is: How did you know that
there was an author out there who could do an article that
would be acceptable and that you wanted for Fine Print! You
must have had tentacles all over the place.
Yes, I kept my eyes very open, and I was always looking at
who was lecturing about what and who was publishing this or
that. That s how I found the people. I really--! don t
even know how I did it, but somehow-
Well, you did it because you made yourself aware. But it s
my experience that a reviewer doesn t usually suggest
someone else to review. It just doesn t work out that way
very well. So it must have been sort of lonely work for
you, just out there all the time, beating the grass to see
what s out there .
Well, I wouldn t say it was lonely because I met wonderful
people that way.
Well, but you had to make the initial contact.
Yes. [phone rings] Whoops.
III SPECIAL ISSUES AND THE HEYDAY OF FINE PRINT
[Interview 2: April 30, 1999]
Surveys of Foreign Fine Printing
Okay, this is Friday, April 30. We re going to continue
talking about editing. I thought we would start with a
discussion of the issues that concentrated on foreign
countries: Germany, the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia. I
think there were also cases where you did surveys of fine
printing in different countries and that sort of thing.
We also had a special British issue, where we featured
British fine presses.
I think I remember, one of the issues you had an article on
a man named Juan Pascoe in Mexico?
He s quite interesting.
He sent Jack Stauffacher a book that he had printed. Maybe
it was on Juan Pablos?
Yes, well, you know how he came to have those skills was
that he studied with Harry Duncan in Nebraska and became a
disciple of Harry Duncan.
How on earth did he end up--did he go there to do that?
Kirshenbaum: Yes, he did. I think he went to school. That is, he
studied in America, I guess to perfect his English or
something, and then he got swept up with Harry Duncan, and
Harry Duncan was his inspiration for having his own printing
Harlan: He must have had some money, then, or support of some sort.
Kirshenbaum: I guess. I don t know. I never delved into his financial
Harlan: Did you ever meet him?
Kirshenbaum: Yes, yes, I did. I met him first when they had the Art of
the Book Conference in Omaha. That was where I met him.
Harlan: Well, anyway, the one piece of his work that I ve seen is
quite ambitious. My goodness! I think he lives and has
this press in this remote little village somewhere in
Harlan: Well, it s an idyllic life, unless it isn t. It s one of
the two .
The Czech Issue. January 1987
Harlan: Okay, let s move on then, starting with the Czech issue.
Harlan: Which appeared in January 1987. I personally think this is
perhaps your tour de force in that medium. It s just so
unexpected, such a surprise. It must have landed like a
bomb because we in the west knew so little about what was
going on in Czechoslovakia.
Harlan: And a lot was going on.
Harlan: So how did you start this?
Well, I ll tell you. I had a very nice friendship with
James Frazer, library director at Fairleigh Dickinson
University in New Jersey. He and his wife dealt a lot with
eastern European literature, and so he was my inspiration
We re going to go back and start with the Czech issue again,
which appeared in January 87. It s a very distinctive
issue if for no other reason than the cover. Now, one of
the people involved in this, beside from all these Czechs,
was Paul Hayden Duensing.
He keeps appearing in the material I look at. Tell us a
little bit about him if you can. How did you get to know
him and so on?
I guess I might have met him also at the Art of the Book
Conference in Nebraska, which was kind of a landmark
occasion, where book people got together for the first time
and discussed things like beautiful books, fine printing,
and type founding, and all the attendant arts. I think that
was where I first met him. He is a remarkable person.
Do you keep in touch with him?
No, I haven t lately. So he was in Germany for a while,
where he attempted to set up a museum of metal type and
Was he German?
Yes. I don t know that he had any connection in any other
country, but he was very interested in Germany and in
eastern Europe, so he was very instrumental in many of the
things that we did. For example, he was able to get this
This one right here.
Yes. Menhart Roman and Italic, designed by Oldrich Menhart.
So he was very valuable to me in my efforts to expand our
coverage into other countries.
In this issue, he also wrote an article on Menhart.
Which was used in the articles on Czechoslovakia.
Right. And it s very rare to be able to get that.
Now, did you have any trouble while you were doing this
communicating with these Czech people in what was then
Communist Czechoslovakia? Do you remember? I m just
talking of correspondence and such.
I don t recall any trouble. No, I think they were fine, and
they were pleased to communicate. They were very proud of
their work. I don t think the government tried to interfere
with them in any way that I know of.
Well, it s not apparent to me.
If they did, it s pretty
But what this article shows is that even during the
occupation by the Germans and then the Russians, there was
still this flourishing art, and I don t think we in the West
No, that s right.
So it was a real revelation.
Yes. I think especially the works of these important
graphic artistsyou know, Vojtech Preissig, I think I d
heard of Preissig before, and Frantisek Kupka and Frantisek
Bilek and Jan Preisler, Josef Vachal, and Tomas Vlak. Those
graphic artists were not really known at all in the West. I
guess the exception was Preissig, because he did some
He actually lived in this country for a while. Do you
recall what kind of reception this issue had? Were people
particularly interested? I m just curious whether or not
you had much response.
No, I didn t really have much response. I would gladly have
published response! But, you know, frankly--! mean, Fine
Print subscribers were surprisingly placid. They seemed to
accept anything I threw their way.
Oh, that s because you were so successful.
Well, I suppose. I m not sure. But anyway, they never
complained about, "Oh, why did you do this issue on these
crazy Czechs?" or "What are you doing with all this German
stuff" and "Give me the good old American press" and all
that. No, they never did that. You know, mostly the kind
of argument we had in Fine Print was over a particular
printer and what his style or her style was, and someone
would object to it. For example, we had a lot of argument
over Richard Bigus s work and that of Roswith Quadflieg in
I was thinking particularly of people not agreeing with the
reviewers more than with the book. There s Jack
Stauffacher s Phaedrus , which generated--
Which was the first really, you know, major brouhaha we had.
And then we had to find counter- arguments because it was
just a brutal review. I was really sorry because I really
admired the work, and I was very fond of Jack, and I just
hated to publish it, but what could I do? When I ve asked
someone to review, that was one of my rules, was that I
would never prohibit an expression of opinion about a book
once I had chosen a reviewer, and that was it. And so if
the result was not quite what I wanted, I never tried to
change it or anything.
Yes . I think the controversy about the Phaedrus was the
two-page layout, with one of the dialoguers on the right and
one on the left.
As I recall, the reviewer, who was a classicist, made some
cogent points. They were points of view, however. It s not
right or wrong.
And I think some of the responses presented the other point
of view. That book is still controversial in that regard, I
think, but most people think it s a masterpiece.
Well, my impression that the way Jack solved the problem of
repeating the name of whoever is speaking in the dialogue
and then another name, another name, another name
Yes, he devised this idea of eliminating from the dialogue
the names of the people speaking. He really invited you to
read across the gutter, and therefore he could present a
dialogue without an annoying succession of names or initials
or whatever they used. I think he found that solution by
going back and seeing some original Greek manuscripts, which
he also documented in a separate booklet, so that was quite
a scholarly feat.
I remember the initial response to the review was by John
Windle. It wasn t very effective because he was emotionally
in high dudgeon. He was very indignant, but he wasn t
really talking very much about the book. But subsequent
comments, I thought, really did provide a balance to the
Now, talking about this kind of controversy, you mentioned
earlier that Abe Lerner had very strong opinions about
Absolutely. So when we ran a review by Robert Bringhurst of
the work of a German publisher and printer, Wolfgang
Tiessin, and he was not pleased at all. This instigated an
argument about the quality of the typography. He pointed
out some very good points about the styles of the books and
the illustrations and said that they were kind of uniform
typographically, so not necessarily appropriate, and that
was what his argument was .
But Abe disagreed?
Yes. Oh, sure.
And I thought he waswell, he s a very useful voice just
generally in the field, and he certainly has things of
interest to say.
Were there times there must have been times when the
printer wasn t happy with the review and let you know,
that true? The printer of a book?
You mean as opposed to the author of a book, or the designer
of a book?
Yes, yes. I don t know whether it was the Arion Press s
Moby Dick he reviewed?
No, it wasn t. There were two reviews, one by Stuart C.
Sherman, the other by William Everson. But I think the
principal criticism of the reviewer was that Andrew had not
allowed enough freedom to the illustrator.
Oh, the Barry Moser illustrations, which were just artifacts
except for thatwell, that great initial letter, and
there s also a dramatic picture of a whale breaking.
Yes, that was, I think, a just criticism. The thing is,
though, that Herman Melville, himself, put a lot of emphasis
on the tools of whaling and all that, and so I could see why
Andrew would have chosen to have had a very strict adherence
to illustrating that sort of thing, rather than trying to
get into the emotions that ran behind, because it s very
hard to do illustrations to do justice to such heavy hatred
It s irrational [laughs].
A little hard to depict.
Yes, very hard to illustrate. I mean, I think he may have
made a wise decision in that case. But anyway, the
reviewers didn t like it. So I had to publish it anyway. I
went ahead, and I think I earned Andrew s enmity or
something with that review, because he was very proud of the
Well, I suppose the printer with a book like that regards it
as his baby, you know.
And you don t like your babies to be criticized.
Of course not. In a way, we were trying to achieve a
certain maturity of the fine-press movement by saying, you
know, let yourself be reviewed. Go out into the world.
Don t just sit on your books. You know, most printers--f ine
printers, anywaywould just sit on their books or tuck them
under the bed or something. So marketing was a very big
problem for them because they had no idea how to do it.
Andrew was, I think, rather more efficacious than others in
publicizing and selling his books.
I think he was, too, yes. I once told him he was in danger
of becoming a John Henry Nash [laughs].
I could see that.
I said it jokingly [laughs]. Didn t work.
Let s go back to the foreign issues. Just one more
thing about the Czech issue, if I can here. Where did I put
it? [going through papers] Yes, there it is. I noticed in
the Czech issue and also in the German issue that there are
these ads, these full-page ads from book dealers. This one
in the Czech issue--Brill of Leiden--has a whole list of
Czech bibliophile editions. And it s a major ad.
Yes, and who knew about these dealers?
Yes, so it seems to me that this issue must have started a
kind of revival of interest in what was going on and what
had been going on in Czechoslovakia, and it seems to me
that s a very important function of a journal like Fine
The German Issue. April 1986; Visiting Renata Raecke and
Other Book People in Germany, 1986
Harlan: Okay. Now, on to Germany. The German issue appeared before
the Czech issue, in April of 1986. I asked you where you
got the initial idea, and you said it was from a person you
knew named James Fraser, and he was where? What university?
I think you said Fairleigh Dickinson.
Kirshenbaum: Fairleigh Dickinson in New Jersey.
Harlan: Did you just happen to know him or did you meet him at a
conference or what? Do you remember?
Kirshenbaum: Oh, I don t know. I can t remember what our initial
Harlan: But he put this germ in your head, the idea of doing a
Harlan: Now, that s a first, too, because I can t think of any other
bibliophilic source that paid any attention to Germany,
particularly since the end of World War II.
Harlan: So he must have suggested to you, then the question is: Do
you think he suggested Renata Raecke to you?
Harlan: Who was in Germany.
Kirshenbaum: Right. She lived in Pinneberg.
Harlan: West Germany, I suppose.
Harlan: So she made some suggestions, and you worked up kind of an
Harlan: Well, one can look at the table of contents to see what the
result is, but it s quite comprehensive. It talks about
book artists and fine printing in general, book design in
the Federal Republic of Germany, sources for the book arts
Kirshenbaum: Right, and I m especially proud of this article on Anna
Simmons because she was absolutely one of the finest
calligraphers and letter forms artists anywhere in the
world. She designed letter forms really, I put her on a
par with Eric Gill.
So when this article was written, was she dead or was she
still with us at that time?
No, I think she had died.
And so you re particularly fond of this article because it
kind of revived an interest in her?
Exactly. And I think a lot of people know about Eric Gill,
but not many people knew about Anna Simmons.
Now, I notice in your correspondence with Renata that you
mentionthis is early onthis is one of those
serendipitous things that you met Hermann Zapf at Adrian
and Joyce Wilson s house and talked about this issue, and he
suggested Walter Wilkes?
That s probably a useful contact, wasn t it?
So this germinates with these suggestions and other things,
and what you come out with is a very ambitious issue on a
subject that had not been covered in English, as far as I
know, at all.
Now, again, the name of Duensing comes up because he helped
you with translations.
Did you have trouble finding people who could really
translate into good English from German?
Kirshenbaum: Gee, I don t think I did, but I can t remember who did the
translations, but I thought they were all pretty good. I
had to do a lot of copy editing for those because, of
course, whoever did the translations didn t do a perfect
rendition of English, so lots of times I had to go back and
refine it a little bit so that it would come out sounding
like it had been written in English.
And that s a problem. But I did notice in the
correspondence that Duensing did help you with some of that,
so he must have known German.
Yes, he did. Yes, he was a very important person.
He also knew the German scene.
Yes. In fact, he went to Germany. He tried to set up a
museum of type foundries and so on, typefounding and metal
type production and all that. Ultimately, he had to come
back because he didn t succeed in his endeavor.
Well, that s interesting,
I m not totally surprised, I
Now, in the middle of all this, you and your husband decide
to go to Germany. Do you remember?
This would be the winter of 85. So you went to England to
a letterpress printers conference and ended up in Europe- -
all over the place. So you did meet Renata in Germany then?
Kirshenbaum: Yes, yes.
Was she a printer or a publisher or a scholar or--
I don t think that you could classify her. She had been
very active after the war in trying to reconcile the Nazi
era. That was the principal factor that I knew. But she
was a very fine woman, and she knew a lot about German
literature and German bookmaking, and so she was very, very
helpful to me.
I notice in the correspondence with her that for this issue
you were trying to review as many German fine presses as you
could, and you had trouble getting them. And then you had a
problem getting good reviews of two books.
Now, Thiessen was the printer whose style Abe Lerner was
advocating, and then Robert Bringhurst found fault with it.
Ah, yes. So it must have been a lot of work. At some point
in the correspondence you mention that this issue was the
most expensive issue you had produced. I can see why the
additional problem of translation, for example
And others. But one of the most interesting people involved
in this, although her name had appeared earlier, is the
printer and artist, Roswitha Quadflieg.
Yes, which means "four winds."
[laughs] She was also a novelist, I think.
Oh, yes, she was a writer, and she wrote several books. One
was a memoir of her brother who died. Actually, he was a
twin, and so it was a very--I tried to read it in German. I
didn t get very far. But that was the sort of thing she
would writememoirs. And then she would illustrate various
things that were really--yes, she was a great illustrator.
And you chose her to do the cover.
Yes. This is from a dream Roswitha had. In the background
are two repeats of the seated Goethe, Bettina von Arnim,
Goethe s longtime correspondent, and above the face of a
cat. I thought it was a very effective cover. But I know
Hermann Zapf hated it. [laughter]
Do you know why?
Well, it was just too mixed up for him. He liked a lot of
It s not a typographer s cover. It s an artist s cover.
Yes. And she was she still is, I trusta very, very
talented artist. I mean, her engravings were particularly
her wood engravings oh, I can t even describe them. They
were so wonderful.
In going through Fine Print, I noticed that more than one of
her books were reviewed, with illustrations.
And the illustrations suggest that she was very competent
putting together a book.
Absolutely. Very, veryand she had a bookbinder who
collaborated with her. I ve forgotten his name as well, but
he was quite a remarkable bookbinder, so many of her books
ended up with these beautiful leather covers, and they were
many times stamped leather, and they were just wonderful.
In fact, I still have some of her books upstairs.
Oh! Well, that s nice.
Yes. And when we had our Fine Print devastationyou know,
we had to sell everything at auction, when things went bad.
Those were some of the things I rescued from the auction
[laughs] I think that s your right [laughs].
I always admired her work. And I m really sorry I ve lost
touch with her completely. I haven t been in contact with
her in years, and I really regret it.
Did you meet her when you were in Germany?
Yes, yes. I had a very warm welcome from Renata Raecke, and
then I met with Roswitha, and I met other book people. We
had a very nice gathering in her home, in Roswitha "s home.
If I had any qualms about going to Germany and getting
involved with German people, I lost it all because I
understood that there were very fine people.
I came to understand the Germans better, and I lost my
loathing. But anyway, one of the people that was quite
remarkable that I met at Roswitha s was actually a member of
the Germany Army who--
During the war, or at that time?
During the war, and had suffered a leg injury, so his leg
was stiff, and he held it out straight, like that
[demonstrating] . Oh, I managed to get into a discussion
with him. I don t think we really mentioned the war
directly except he told me that he had been at Monte
Oh , my .
Yes. So that was quite remarkable.
Yes. Did you see much of Germany on this trip, or was it
pinpointed to business trips?
No, I tried to see--in fact, then Noel left me, and he went
on--I think we were there because he had a conference to go
to or something. I can t remember what the situation was.
But anyway, then I went- -I met him in Italy- -in Rome, I
guess it was. So I traveled by myself in a train, and that
was quite an experience, too.
When you were in Germany, were you speaking German, or were
they speaking English, or some combination thereof?
They spoke a very fine English, and so I didn t have to
struggle too much. I took a little bit of German, but not
enough to be able to speak comfortably, and so they were
very accommodating to me.
A Letterpress Conference Leads to Contacts in London, 1985
Now, before you went to Germany you were in England.
A combination of business and pleasure. What kind of
reception did you have with the English?
Wonderful, just wonderful, yes. Oh, they were so welcoming.
It was so wonderful. They were very, very receptive.
Did you meet John Dreyfus at this point, or had you met him
No, I think we met him--we had corresponded before, and we
knew of each other, but then he invited us to his home, and
that was really an experience. He had this whole wall just
covered with rare books and beautiful bindings and
everything. Yes, that was really wonderful.
And he became a very active member of Fine Print
Reviewing and editing, as a consultant, I suppose.
Right. Yes, he was a very valued friend.
Did you meet anyI m trying to think what printers you
might have met, fine printers, at the time.
Yes. Well, I distinctly remember one printeroh, they
lived in Kent, in an old, old--I mean, really ancient
Sounds uncomfortable in the winter.
Well, it wasn t really. I can t remember when we went.
You were there in the fall.
In the fall. But anyway, he had his own private press, and
he was a purist. In fact, he was a purist to such extent
that he didn t consider a printing press as a machine. I
kind of insulted him at one point because I said- -he showed
me his wonderful hand press, you know. I forget what kind
it was. It was one of the good old iron presses. And I
just--oh, I just stared at it, and I said, "Oh, what a
beautiful machine." And he had a very testy response. And
he said, "That is not a machine. That is a tool."
You learned your lesson, right?
Absolutely, yes. But they prepared dinner for us and, oh,
they were just wonderful. I can t remember the name, but
I m sure I could look it up.
Well, we can find it, yes. Did you go to any of the big
book shops in London, like Quaritch s?
Yes, we did our share of that.
And Simon Rota. Did you meet him?
Yes, yes, I did meet Rota. And Colin Franklin. We tried to
get into these, you know, fancy book shops like Quaritch s
and so on. Frankly, I felt like they were a little cool.
They didn t like people to come over--
Not just to browse.
Right. And they wanted us--you know, they wanted to have
serious collectors coming in, not people who just wanted to
browse, as you say. And so I had a distinct feeling of
Harlan: I think that s not unusual. Did you get a chance to visit
what was then called the British Library, which has
wonderful early examples of writing.
Kirshenbaum: Well, I think we did.
Harlan: The Rosetta Stone, for example.
Kirshenbaum: Right. Well, we didn t have time to do justice. We might
have peeked in or something, but we didn t really have time
to have an intensive visit to that library.
Harlan: Now, I noticed in the German issue we re talking about,
there s this report on a seminar in Hamburg by Fernand
Baudin, who is Belgian, I think, isn t he?
Harlan: An important man. And I also noticed in your correspondence
at the Bancroft that you had quite a correspondence with
Kirshenbaum: Sure. Yes, he was a very inspiring person. He especially
believed in sort of calligraphy for the masses kind of
thing. In fact, he wrote a book called Typography on the
Harlan: Was he a calligrapher primarily? Or was that one of his
Kirshenbaum: Well, that was one of his interests. I think he liked
graphic arts in general.
Harlan: Did this trip take you to The Netherlands?
Kirshenbaum: Yes. We went to--not necessarily to The Netherlands, but we
did go to Belgium, and we enjoyed the wonderful moule that
they have there. That s one of my memories.
Kirshenbaum: Moule, mussels. Oh, boy, they were just delicious,
Kirshenbaum: And then we visited the Plantin Museum there, and that was
quite an experience because it s so perfect. It just shows
you what a real, quote, "printing plant," unquote, was at
It still functions, I think. They ve got people there who
can do everything.
It is amazing.
Have you ever been there?
No, I haven t.
You should make a pilgrimage.
The Italian Fine Printing Scene
You said you met your husband in Italy later on in this
Now, The Bancroft Library contains in the Fine Print
archives a tape, an interview you had with Mardersteig 1 s
That was the Italian issue.
Did you meet him on this trip? Do you remember?
No, I don t think so. Yes, I think I did meet him. I went
to Verona the first time, and then later I went again in, I
think it was 1990, and they had the exhibition of "The Most
Beautiful Books in the World," which is a very ambitious
title. That was a really remarkable exhibition of books
they had. They catalogued the whole thing, and they were
going to do other competitions. Then I don t know what
happened. I guess Martino must have lost his financial
support. The banks were being very generous to him. You
know, many Italian banks are noted for their generosity to
the arts. But then later on, I guess, he lost his funding
and so he wasn t able to continue with that program. I
think they did two or three years of just gathering all the
most beautiful books they could find and asked people to
I think probably by the time you went to Italy that Tallone
Was Richard-Gabriel Rummonds with the Plain Wrapper Press?
No, I think he had left already.
Did you get a sense--! mean, as much as you could with this
brief tripthat the book arts were alive and well in Italy,
No, they were not. I think the three or four people that I
was able to have conversation withand the principal ones
were indeed Martino Mardersteig, and in Milan I think there
was a very fine printer who was into doing artists books,
and that was really a very avant-garde thing to do at that
time. And then I visited the president of the Centra Amid
del Libra (one hundred friends of the book) , which was a
book collectors organization. It was kind of stuffy, you
know, based on aristocratic Italian ideas. They
commissioned handpress printers to produce their books and
they funded them, like the Book Club of California. Anyway,
they would not fund anything that was outre or adventuresome
or anything. They just wanted their same old classics.
Were they producing Italian chestnuts?
Yes, that sort of thing, and so that was kind of
You know, Rummonds was in- -was he in Verona?
For--I don t know- -what? --ten years, maybe?
He must have had an international clientele.
Because he certainly couldn t have gotten support from just
one little place like Verona, I don t think.
Oh, no. He had an international coterie of people who
admired his books, yes. And I still remember being bowled
over by one of his books that he sent to me because it had a
cover with a brass inset by a famous sculptor, an Italian
sculptor named Pomodoro. It was all abstract forms. It was
just stunning. Some of his books were really remarkable.
He went to Alabama at one point.
Yes, University of--
The book arts program there. I can t imagine a more foreign
place for him to be!
But he did really well there, and he had his own private
press there. He had his own studio with presses and
everything, so I really don t know why he left, but I guess
he had some feuds with some people there.
I can imagine.
And so then he just dropped the whole printing thing and
went to Hollywood and tried his hand at screen writing.
I think he lives in Seattle now.
Oh, does he?
Well, I don t know. I ve lost touch with him completely.
That seems to me a great shame that he never really did a
manual of printing on the hand press because he became very,
very skilled. You know, he lectured about it and so on, but
I don t know that he ever produced a book.
Actually, he did, rather recently: Printing on the Iron
Handpress (New Castle, Delaware, Oak Knoll Press, 1998).
That shows you how out of touch I am.
it was published.
Well, good, I m glad
So at least we have salvaged that from his career. Plus
those wonderful books from Plain Wrapper. My goodness.
Yes, they were wonderful. And, of course, his complaint
always was that when he moved to Verona I guess he expected
that Giovanni Mardersteig would kind of be a mentor for him
or some kind of guide for him, but he always resented the
fact that Giovanni would never share his tricks of the trade
That is interesting because you had an interview with
Martino, and he was taking you through the press.
He was talking about trade secrets.
Sure. That was another time and another year and another
But apparently Giovanni was very tight about sharing his
knowledge of printing on the hand press with anybody else,
and so then, he didn t leave too much of a legacy when he
died because he kept everything to himself about his
wonderful printing. And God, his books are so gorgeous.
Ah, really, I would love to be a collector of his original
I think they re pricey now.
Very, very pricey. So you can t afford them. At least a
normal person can t afford them.
Other Foreign Coverage
Did your travels ever take you to Spain?
Kirshenbaum: No. That s one of the places we ve never been. We d like
to go to Spain and Portugal. That s our next dream trip.
Still on foreign coverage. Now, of course, you re not just
covering printing; you re covering calligraphy, paper
One of the topics that you covered was the book arts report
on Japan, which I think included papermaking. I thought
that was interesting. And then, of course, we mentioned
Juan Pascoe and his press, Martin Pescador, in Mexico.
Do you remember any other parts of world, other than Europe
and America, that were covered?
Well, we had, as I say, a very nice connection with Osowshi
Miura in Japan. He was very interested in papermaking. And
then we had Tim Barnett, who was a remarkable papermaker.
He s still working now at the University of Iowa. He has
his own papermill there. He was a very interesting person
because he wanted to understand the processes of Japanese
papermaking, as opposed to European or American papermaking.
So we had some articles by him. I guess that was about the
extent of our Japanese coverage. Paper, I guess, was the
Yes. At the end of Fine Print, when you weren t quite sure
what was going to happen next, you did plan for an issue
that was never published.
Right. That was 16:4.
Yes. I noticed that the tentative list included coverage of
Right. And the reason I had that was because I had made
friends with a Hungarian fellow, Andras Fiiresz, in Seattle,
and when he saw the Czech issue--and he had been a long-time
subscriberhe immediately got in touch with me, and he
said, "Oh, there is wonderful bookmaking going on in
Hungary, and you must cover it, and I will help you to make
a special Hungarian issue," you see, because it was a point
of pride. But anyway- -
So that was a possibility.
Right. Well, we started working on it. It was very
difficult, you know, to get in touch with the Hungarians.
Ki r s henb aum :
He was going to help me, and it would have been a good
contact, and then we just never were able to pull it off.
I think also in the agenda for that last issue was an
intriguing article by Chuck Bigelow. Do you remember that?
Right. That was one of the few times I went awry with
Chuck. He wanted to do an article on the typography of
perfume ads and perfume bottles, sort of like what are the
favorite letter forms for perfume, and what types did they
use and all that. It was really very intriguing. I
immediately took him up on the suggestion. And then later
on we just weren t able to pursue it because I wanted more
information about exactly what makes a perfume type. And he
wasn t able, really, to present any hard information. So we
just abandoned the whole thing.
Yes. I thought, actually, that referred to--I was thinking
of a perfume book. I was thinking- -remember Andrew Hoyem s
edition of Venus and Adonis?
When he published it, he put a dollop of Chanel No. 5 on
Yes, I remember that.
[laughs] Which didn t last long [laughs]. That was a
favorite to show my classes because they thought it was a
hoot, particularly since there was no perfume left. It had
long since evaporated.
Perhaps an esoteric idea.
That was one of Andrew s wiggier ideas.
[laughs] Yes. He s always full of surprises.
Isn t he, though. He s a very talented person.
He certainly is. I thought perhaps that Hungarian issue
might have been triggered in part by the book on Hungarian
type designer Miklos Kis and Jack Stauf facher s interest in
him. But that was either earlier or later than that.
No, that waswell, that was an important part of Hungarian
typographic history, and we might well have had another
article, but we had already covered the Kis [...] thing, so
I don t know that I was that enthusiastic about more Kis.
But it might have been interesting to have another angle on
that. But we just didn t manage to do it. There are so
many things that I really would have liked to have
continued, with the international influence. We might have
done French book design and French typography. But we never
got to it because it s really a big field. You know,
coverage of France would be fantastic, would take maybe a
double issue or something- -because, of course, there s all
the wonderful artists books that came originallythe whole
idea, of course, came from France.
Yes, I think it might have taken a double issue, and you
would have, perhaps, in dealing with French contributors,
been dealing with super-sensitivities.
Oh, absolutely. That was one of the things that sort of put
me off from trying to cover France because I felt that there
were a lot of, oh, contentious people there in France, and
they were very jealous of their tradition, and they wouldn t
have wanted any coverage of anything that was less than
Harlan: And their tradition.
Broadside Roundup" Column. From 198A
Let s talk about a featureone of several that appeared in
Fine Print which started in 1984, July. It s called the
"Broadside Roundup." This began as an annual, became a
biennial, and then, as you say, it just appeared when you
could get it together! Now, how did this germinate?
remember? How you decided to try to do this?
Well, at some point or other I was stricken by the fact that
just as fine printing was being ignored as a bibliographic
field of endeavor, the same thing occurred when I kept
seeing these wonderful broadsides that these fine presses
were producing. I had an urge to try to round them up, as
we say, and present them as worthy of a collector s
How did you see these? Did they send you copies, or did you
see them in shows, or--
Very often they would send me their broadsides. And, of
course, I didn t know what to do with them because you can t
review them as books, surely. But I think a lot of very
fine poetry and memoirs and so on were wrapped up in these
wonderful broadsides. And the combination of graphic art,
typography, and literature was all there. And so that s why
I was very attracted to it.
Yes. One of the things I like about broadsides is that
they re often whimsical. They re really fun.
Right. And we had one, actually- -let s see if it s in here
[going through papers]. Oh, yes. This is a wonderful wood
engraving from Bieler Press. It shows two rabbits--one kind
of hunkering down and the other one sitting up, alert. The
caption on the illustration is "Rabbits Do Not Know What
They Are" --which I thought was wonderful, a little aphorism
That is charming, yes. So your cover statement on the 84
"Roundup" said you had got 150 submissions from forty-five
presses for that first "Roundup." And probably you didn t
have much trouble getting those, did you?
No, not at all.
Just the word getting out?
Well, we put a notice in the magazine.
This [showing the notice]: "A Neglected American Art Form."
You included it, I presume, with the magazine?
And invited people to send in their broadsides, and they
So the problem probably was logistical.
Kirshenbaum: It was. It was a nightmare. Ginger was a very important
person as far as gathering in the--she became kind of
Broadside editor. We had to gather them all in.
Harlan: Was that her first name?
Kirshenbaum: She goes by the name of Ginger, which is her last name. But
her initials, E. M. Ginger.
Harlan: Have you kept in touch with her?
Kirshenbaum: Yes, in a kind of a minor way because she s very busy right
Harlan: Is she still on the West Coast?
Kirshenbaum: Yes, she lives in Piedmont, and she just has been on a new
job with John Warnock of Adobe Systems. They re doing
something called Octavo, which is a gathering of all
important rare books and putting on disc.
Harlan: That s a very ambitious project.
Kirshenbaum: It absolutely is, and I just had a chance to speak with him
when he gave a presentation at the Gleeson Library about his
project. And that s what she s been really busy with.
Harlan: How did you go about reviewing? Did you have a committee to
look at it? Do you remember? Judges?
Kirshenbaum: Yes, we did. We had judges, yes. We had judges. They
Harlan: And then did you reproduce these in Fine Print?
Kirshenbaum: As much as we could. We were very limited. We couldn t do
a lot of color print and so forth. That was a real pity
because, you know, a lot of the color of these broadsides is
just a wonderful part of it. But we weren t able to do
Harlan: So you started out in 84. You had one in 85 and then, as
you say, it became occasional.
Harlan: But there was never a shortage of interest or broadsides, I
presume, if you dared to call them in! [laughs]
No, neverand everybody was so fascinated. They just loved
them. And I loved them, too. I was really sorry that we
couldn t maintain it, but honestly, it just got too
difficult because, don t forget, we also had to return all
the broadsides that were not reviewed, and that became a
real drag. And then, of course, we did not pay any of the
jury or the selectors, whatever you might call it, but they
got to keep the broadsides they reviewed.
Other Columns ; Coverage of Bookbinding and Calligraphy
We had to drop another feature: "Books in Sheets" because it
was just too difficult for the printers to inform us ahead
of time whether they were going to offer sheets or not, and
there were various other things that we sort of started and
then had to discontinue.
"New Presses," for example, was a real problem because you
could say, "Oh, here s a wonderful new press," and you d
look at their brochure and think, "Oh, wow, these people are
going to really produce something great."
And then they would vanish?
And then they would vanish, yes!
Well, the original purpose of Fine Print was to provide some
sort of bibliographic control over what was being produced.
That was my original impulse.
Right. And it was limited originally to fine-press books.
But rather early on, you decided to include other of the
book arts, like calligraphy and binding--
And bookbinding, yes. Bookbinding was an important element.
Now, in dealing with the world of bookbinding, from your
standpoint, the standpoint of editor of Fine Print, were you
dealing with very different kind of people than printers?
Was it more difficult, less difficult than trying to keep in
touch with what s going on in printing?
Well, in some ways yes and in some ways no. In other words,
there were organizations like the Guild of Bookworkers and
the Designer Bookbinders in England that made it easier for
me to maintain contact. And then we also had a bookbinding
editor at one point, first Susan Spring Wilson, and then
later I think we had Joanne Sonnichsen. And so I just
accepted whatever they gave me, and that was it, yes.
Are there as many fledgling bookbinders as there are
fledgling printers? What are the numbers? Are they
Gee, I really don t know. I haven t kept up with the
bookbinders. But, you know, the Bookbinders of California
are still flourishing, so I think there s a good group of
bookbinders. And the Designer Bookbinders are certainly
flourishing. Of course, there s the Guild of Bookworkers,
mainly in the eastern U.S., and that s and of course,
there s a wonderful coterie of edition binders in the U.S.
And I think in places like Germany there s still a craft of
bookbinding that is taught.
Perhaps rather differently, but it exists, so it s a
surviving craft, certainly in Europe. I would think that
there was always an interest on the part of your subscribers
Yes, there was. But, of course, it presented another of the
dilemmas of Fine Print: all the bookbinders avidly read the
bookbinding articles, and they wanted me to do more
bookbinding. Some of them even dropped their subscriptions
because there wasn t enough bookbinding. Then, of course,
you know, the printers and typographers and type designers,
who probably should have been interested in bookbinding,
were not that interested. So I think that s why many fine-
press books suffer from a lack of knowledge about what is a
really good bookbinding. An edition binding is what you
need, which is a different function from doing an individual
book binding. At one point, we even listed a group of
edition binders and talked about the different styles of
bookbinding that might apply to a whole run of fine-press
And calligraphy. Again, a very different field but one that
would have attracted some of your subscribers, certainly.
Sure, yes. And people loved our calligraphy articles, and
they loved our coverage of calligraphic books and all that,
yes. Well, there was something from every angle of
bookmaking, I think. Of course, there was the whole idea of
reviewing books on the history of books and printing.
Yes, the "Reference Shelf."
The "Reference Shelf" was a very important factor. And then
we got into ornament, and we got into manuscript ornament,
illuminated manuscripts, and so on, and that was a very
interestingto me, personallypath to pursue.
Right. Now, I remember in calligraphy one of your, I
thought, spectacular issues was on Islamic calligraphy.
A very serious issue, very serious articles, lots of
I just thought it was a most telling treatment. Do you
remember how you got onto that subject, and the right people
to do it?
Right. Well, I received a notice of an exhibition at the
Library of Congress. The whole exhibition was run by a
fellow named Mohammed Zakairya. He was an American Muslim
and had made a special study of these different sorts of
Right, it s like medieval hands.
Right, right, right in each different style and everything.
And so I just got in touch with him. I just said, "Hey, how
about it? Come and do an article on Muslim calligraphy for
us." And so he did, and it was wonderful. And then I had
an opportunity to meet him, and he s quite a remarkable man.
I recently had a phone call from [Ingrid Weimann?], whose
husband was Chris Weimann, who was the wonderful expert in
marbling, Turkish marbling. He had collaborated a lot with
Mohammed Zachariah to produce marbling with Muslim
calligraphy on it.
Do you know, who was the audience for that? They must have
had some special appealplus the fact they were just
beautiful. People would buy them just because they
I think that was it . That was the reason why I was
interested in it, too. And so, you know, we did this
special issue on non-Roman type, and that was an important
part of it. Yes, I was very happy with that issue.
Mohammed Zachariah was a very talented calligrapher, and
also he knew a lot about the different kinds of calligraphy,
and so that s how that issue turned out to be so good.
Yes. So again it s that kind of serendipity at work.
Editorial Planning: Indexing
Absolutely. But, you know, I would do a lot of that. I
would track special exhibitions, and then I would find out
who had organized them. And then I would get in touch with
them. So that was an important part. In fact, I kept a
special file of potential reviewers and so on.
I think in one of your letters--! notice you were
corresponding with someoneyou said you viewed the function
of the editor as "to know who knows."
That s what you were about. And in the Fine Print archives
there are folders, information files, in which you have
clipped things out from magazines and a number of sources
about exhibits and shows and individuals.
That must have been perhaps one of your major
How far ahead of time did you have things blocked out?
Probably not as far as you would have liked [laughs] I
Right. And ultimately we had to change our numbering
system, so we couldn t say January, April, October and
December. We had to say Winter, Spring- -you know, so we
would have a little more leeway. And that maybe was a bad
mistake because it permitted us to publish a spring issue,
like June and July [laughs].
It was too tempting.
Yes. So I should have kept a tighter rein on that, but, you
know, once we started, it was just--what do they say?--you
start sliding down the hill?
If an issue were late, the reasons might be what?
Well, just the difficulty of making contact with authors and
having to depend on them to get their stuff in on time.
Did you have to do a lot of wheedling, remindering, or were
they pretty good about that?
But there was
Overall, I d say they were pretty good,
always a straggler or two--
Who could hold the whole issue up.
Yes, right, right.
How about, as a problem or not, the mechanics of
illustrations and that sort of thing?
We tried to have more illustration and, of course, that was
a problem because we had to find the source of the
illustration, and then we had to see if it was reproducible
or not. That was another thing that was a problem. You
know, can we reproduce this in black and white so it will be
effective? Or can we reproduce it in letterpress? Or, you
know, should we have an offset sheet where we do a lot of
the illustration? And that was our choice, too, was
sometimes we would just leave all the illustration for the
Did you ever have problems with printers who couldn t meet
No, no. They were pretty good, really.
Well, they wanted to get paid, too.
Sure, yes. So no, I wouldn t say that printers were ever a
real source of a timing problem. In fact, I d say that if
anything, they were the ones that established some kind of a
standardbecause they had a tight window, too, in which
they could print Fine Print.
Right. Now, another one of the departments that came out a
little later, but not much, was called "On Type." In that
That came very early on.
Yes. And that would feature either a particular type or
some family of type.
And that certainly would have appealed to the groups who
were interested in printing. And there were certainly
experts available, I would think.
It was just a matter of finding them, again.
True. And I still remember our first "On Type" article was
in a very early issue. I think it might have been Volume 1,
Number 2 or 3 or something. And that was sort of launching
us on the whole type idea. For that, I have to give credit
to Albert Sperisen of the Book Club of California?
Because he did an article on the different uses of Caslon
over the centuries. I mean, I think it was attractive to a
lot of people to see all the wonderful books that had been
printed in Caslon. And so from there we went on, trying to
do other articles on type design. For example, one early
one that we did was actually a book that had been printed in
a very strange type. I acquired the book. I think it was
from the Broder collection, you know?
And it was all done in a very unusual type. Linnea Gentry
volunteered to track it down and see what the history of the
type was, and then that was the second article that we had
that was of some significant--! remember now what it was.
It was Fleischmann. He was a type designer, and he produced
this type--I think it was back in the 17th century.
Now this appeared in--what was the book? Do you remember?
From the Broder collection. Was it a 18th-century book?
Yes, I think it was.
Yes. I think later on, then, you began to have--maybe not
later on--you began to have an editor of that department.
Chuck Bigelow was the first of the editors.
Yes, and he volunteered. I mean, I knew him. I had been up
to visit him in Portland, and I knew him when he was just
starting his own little press up there, the Corvine Press.
But anyway, he was doing some very creditable books.
Through Lloyd Reynolds he had- become very interested in
letter design, so he was willing to take on the job of being
type editor. That was really just the making of the "On
This was before he got his MacArthur, I think.
He did studies on providing alphabets for Indian languages.
Yes. I believe that he did contribute to the design of a
language, an Indian language, and I think it was Cherokee.
So he was very interested in that whole aspect of type
design for different languages and so on. He had a very
good friend named William Bright, who also was very
interested because he was a linguist. He did some reviewing
for us also. He is just brilliant, a brilliant person, and
he eventually wrote a book on all the written languages of
the world. He is really an outstanding person.
The thing is that William Bright was the one that first
introduced us to the idea of indexing Fine Print. He had
what I call an autologous index. I mean, he just would
automatically index each year, as the issues came out. That
sort of formed the basis of our idea of producing an index.
We counted on him, too, when we saw what his index was like,
and we realized that we could produce an index. But we
couldn t follow his format eventually because what he did
was to make the whole index by title, and he assigned a
number to it, alphabetically, by title.
It sounds very rational and perhaps difficult.
Absolutely, because then eventually, when we tried to use it
and we had adjustments to be made to it, we would have this
very cumbersome numbering style, and then we would have to
go back and find the number and hope changing it wouldn t
affect the numbering system. So it turned out that we
couldn t really follow his style. But it was very
illuminating about doing an index of Fine Print.
The Influence of Lloyd Reynolds; Profiles and Obituaries of
Now, another one of your contributors, perhaps consultants,
was Sumner Stone, who was with Adobe at one point.
He s independent now. And I think you ve mentioned that--
weren t he and Bigelow roommates at Reed College? Or they
were friends, anyway.
And they both studied with Lloyd Reynolds.
Lloyd Reynolds, right. And I think that that is a very
important connection or spur to the development of American
calligraphy and type design. I would like someday to
interview all those people inspired by Lloyd Reynolds who
later went on to be calligraphers and type designers: Sumner
Stone, Michael Sheridan, Charles Bigelow, Kris Holmes, and
And so I think that was a very important influence.
It s one that I d like to pursue, maybe doing oral histories
of Lloyd Reynolds s students.
Yes. He certainly produced some influential people, working
on type design and digitization.
Sumner Stone has been particularly active in that. I don t
know what Bigelow is doing now. He just doesn t seem to be
so visible. He may be active, but--
Well, I think he and his wife Kris--l don t actually know if
they re married, but they ve been together for decades. But
anyway, at some point they moved to Hawaii, and I don t know
why they did that. I guess they just wanted to get away
from the hurly-burly of the mainland.
Maybe they sort of retreated.
Yes. Well, I think they made pretty good money, you know,
with their Lucida, which was an early digital type, and then
Chris Holmes designed Isadora, which was a fancy
calligraphic type, very beautiful. Then they ve done other
types which are based on the idea that you can produce
legible types digitally.
Yes. Well, of course, Sumner Stone has specialized to some
degree in the digitization of classical type faces, like the
Bodoni which is just beautiful. He s been very good at
that. He also, I think, provided Jack Stauffacher with a
computer and got Jack involved in this whole process of
using computers to produce attractive type designs.
Another feature of Fine Print is profiles of book arts
people, I presume, type people mostly- -maybe not entirely.
I notice that in the tenth anniversary issue there s a book
arts profile of August Hechscher.
By Joseph Blumenthal. And then the "On Type" department has
the Civilite of Hermann Zapf by Duensing again. So that s
sort of a double wharamy there.
So you would do profiles of individual type designers, but
sometimes you would do something like digital, for example?
Well, sure. And I guess Carol Blinn was our first venture
into doing a profile of a digital type designer. Adobe
Systems was really very far advanced in terms of hiring
their own type designers.
Then we did profiles of presses, of course, and proprietors
of presses, like the Janus Press and Clair van Vliet.
She was early to be involved with Fine Print.
Oh, absolutely. She was, like, one of the first to respond
to our request for books to review, and she sent us two or
three of her early books, including Kafka s Bucket Rider and
a couple of other books that she d done early on. I don t
know why, but she trusted us to review the books and send
them back to her.
You know, I noticed that one of the books you reviewed in an
early issue was from Quadflieg.
Which I found interesting.
Yes, yes. And we did a profile of Roswitha, of course,
Roswitha Quadflieg. I m trying to remember who else.
It s either a profile or a kind of memorial to Valenti
Angelo by Abe Lerner.
That was from
And also you did obituaries of people, too.
Yes, of course.
And they would be short or long, depending on how the spirit
took the writer, I guess.
Right. And that s one of the great regrets about letting
Fine Print go down, is that, you know, I realized that it s
one of the few places that you can do an obituary of a
stellar graphic artist-type designer or, you know, a
bookbinder or whatevera book arts person who s really made
a contribution. Now I don t know where a person can place
an obituary of such a person.
Not to that degree, as in Fine Print. You can go to a place
like the Book Club of California, but that s really of
members of the Book Club, who may or may not be--
I don t know where people go now.
Well, I think if the person is truly significant, you can go
to The New York Times, but how many people get into that?
Well, yes. That s it, that s it. It s not that easy to get
an obituary into The New York Times.
Well, all of these features that were in Fine Print have
just fallen by the wayside now. You re right. I don t know
where you go for this information.
Right. Well, there is a hand papermaking magazine.
How about the bookbinders?
And the bookbinders have their ownit s a Guild of
Bookworkers, and they publish a nice little newsletter-type
thing and also have articles on bookbinding. And then
there s the New Bookbinder in England. They publish fine
articles, beautifully illustrated, about bookbinding. And
then, of course, there s that well-known and very expensive
Yes. So, I mean, I think it s a very laudable thing, but,
on the other hand, I don t think it s something that most
people can afford.
I was looking at recent issues of Matrix the other day.
It s book length. It s beautiful.
It is beautiful.
And it s an annual, and it--well, it just doesn t try to be
as comprehensive in coverage as something like Fine Print.
It s quite specialized. And I supposed the bibliographic
journals have some obituaries.
The Dutch Issue; Reader Responses
[Interview 3: June 29, 1999]
We re going to go back now and talk about the issue on Dutch
printing, which will be a companion to the German and the
Czech, which you already covered. So, Sandy, did someone
suggest this to you?
The Dutch issue? Well, yes. The person who suggested it to
me was Monica Strauss, who has been almost from the
beginning one of our principal contributing editors. She
had traveled a lot in The Netherlands and went on bicycle
trips with her then husband through The Netherlands. Also
she knew a lot of book people and fine printers and type
designers. So when she came back from a trip there, she
suggested that we do a special issue on The Netherlands
because the Dutch book arts were very diverse and very
Did she have contacts in the Netherlands?
the best people would be to contact?
Did she know who
Yes, she did. In fact, I wouldn t have had an idea--I guess
the only people I heard of was the Enschede Typefoundry and
the type design that had gone on at Enschede, but I had no
idea about the rest and about these printing people that
were gathering. There was one outfit called Bookie Wookie--
[ laughter] They did all kinds of bizarre little books and
so on. So that was fun, getting to know all of that.
It s interesting that the Dutch have been so--really since
the end of World War II have been so experimental, so avant-
And you think of the Dutchnot that long ago, you think of
them as rather stolid and unimaginative and puritanical.
But obviously something happened. The Netherlands still is,
I think, a center for a lot of original ideas and material.
It s amazing, I think.
So she suggested who might be included in this article,
in this issue?
Did she contact these people, or did you?
Or did you both?
Do you remember?
She initiated everything. This is an interesting group,
Druekers in der Marge, on the margin, on the fringe. And
then she got in touch with Huib van Krimpen, who was the son
on Jan van Krimpen. He wrote an article for us about type
design in the Netherlands and the influence of the Enschede
Foundry, which was really fascinating.
And then we also did an article on touring for book
arts. In other words, we tried to identify all the
important museums and collections, and of course there s a
great collection at Enschede, so that was the whole thing,
and it was really a wonderful thing. I could never have
done it without Monica.
That s interesting. And the cover is quite unusual. The
cover, I think, is one of the most enigmatic of any of the
Fine Print covers. How did it come about?
Kirshenbaum: Well, again, it was just a contact through Monica Strauss.
Janine Huizenga is known as an avant-garde artist and
designer in Amsterdam. She is a sculptor and a freelance
photographer and illustrator, and so she seemed the perfect
person to do a design for us. The design that she did I
think is really interesting because it represents the
founding of The Netherlands. There s a red silhouette in
the geographic form of The Netherlands . Then she has these
sort of sculpture-like headless figures with long screws
coming out of holes where their heads should be, and so
she s saying that [reading]: "a process of cultivation
because the land is wrested from the sea by human hands.
The red silhouette of the country rests on statues which
symbolize its apparently indestructible foundations.
However, the hard and continuous battle against the sea has
been a great strain on the Dutch. Hence, the blood-red form
of the land." The title is set in Helvetica. I think it s
very interesting to see the way these screws apparently,
she s indicating, you know, what a great effort it is to
hold the country together. So that was very interesting.
When we talked about the Czech and the German issues, I
think I asked you whether or not you got much response,
said certainly no negative response.
It sort of raised a question with me, again, that a couple
of times you have said that there wasn t much feedback, and
I think you can take that as a compliment, but I expect from
your standpoint you wanted some sort of controversy
occasionally whenever you had it.
Well, we did have controversy,
Mainly it was about book
Harlan: Yes --which is inevitable, I think,
I m thinking of book reviews. There was the controversy
with Jack Stauf facher s Phaedrus , which we talked about.
Kirshenbaum: Right, and that generated a letter or two.
Harlan: Right. Then there was another one.
Kirshenbaum: Yes. There waslet me see. It was a book review--
There was a lot of controversy about Richard Bigus because
he produced books with experimental typography. Abe Lerner
thought that they were very bad books. For example,
Neruda s Ode to Typography, in which Richard Bigus set it in
a kind of a floating diagonal format, in a different shape.
Of course, Abe, being very traditional, did not like that at
And then there was another book of his, whose title I
don t remember, but anyway- -
Yes, "Out of the Cradle, Endlessly Rocking." That also
inspired a dialogue between the two: Richard Bigus
responding to Abe Lerner, and Abe Lerner responding to
Richard Bigus s defense. It was a jolly good time.
I remember that now. It was spirited. But Abe Lerner had
very strong opinions, effectively expressed, I think.
So he couldn t be ignored.
No, certainly not, and I didn t wantyou know, then there
was another controversy which occurred when we reviewed some
books from Wolfgang Tiessen in Germany. They were beautiful
books, really, and so I asked Robert Bringhurst to review
them. He complained about the sameness of the typography,
and apparently Tiessen was wedded to Kis Janson. I mean,
Robert Bringhurst objected to the sameness of the
typography, for whatever work- -and they were beautifully
printed and bound.
But when you look closely at it, as Robert Bringhurst
didand he was an expert he became an expert on type
design and the cultural implications of type design, and
eventually he wrote a book about the Elements of Typographic
Styleyou know, imitating that book, Elements of Style that
is so well known. He expressed his thoughts about the
meanings of type as indicative of the culture in which the
type is created, and it s really perceptive. And so he was
very critical of this Tiessen fellow because he didn t seem
to have the same sensitivity to type that one would expect
from a creator of fine books.
And was there any reaction to his negative feelings about
Yes, there was, because, again, Abe Lerner [laughter]
objected greatly. In fact, I accepted on loan from him a
bunch of Tiessen books so I could see how good they were.
Eventually I sent them back. But they really are beautiful
but maybe not as sensitive to typography as one would wish.
Well, that s still a controversy. A line of fine printers
in the past have a house type, and that s what they use, and
they use the same style. Almost all Doves Press books look
A lot of printers are that way.
Well, I think it s partly because they have limited funds
for type, and they choose one or two, and then they ve got
to make do with them. You can t have a whole library of
types the way you once could.
No. That also brings up an interesting topic, the use of
computer-generated type. For instance, you look at the work
of Jack Stauffacher, who has his house type- -he has the Kis
Janson typebut now he uses everything he can get a hold
of, an amalgamation of everything, and he still, I think, is
doing excellent work. But he s freed from the restrictions
of having hard metal types and cases because one can get
software with so many good typefaces.
That s right.
He s a good example of using it quite intelligently, I
So there is hope.
Tenth Anniversary Issue. January 1985
The celebratory tenth anniversary issue of January 1985 is
interesting on several counts. It s such an ambitious work.
I thought we d talk about that aspect of it, too. It must
have taken a lot of time to put this out. It s so
collaborative, and it s a kind of Valentine from the various
presses that were involved in it.
Ten designs, on the theme of ten.
Right. So you must have started this, I would think, quite
a bit before you published it. It would take a while.
It starts out with your editor s letter, which I think is
very masterful, a summation of where we were at that point.
It must have taken a long time to write this. It s really a
very thoughtful essay. And then I don t know whether the
other articles you selected as particularly appropriate for
this issue, or are they just good articles you wanted to
publish? For example, this one by Scott Walker on "Fine
Printing and Trade Book Publishing: Conflict and
Yes. My recollection was that I just put in whatever good
articles I had coming, and I didn t seek out anything
But this seems appropriate. It may have been serendipity,
but it seems appropriate. I reread that recently. It still
makes some valid points. This also, the one on
"Bookbinding: Perspective and Prescription" of [W. ] Thomas
Taylor. You know, these articles tend to look backwards and
forwards, and I think that s appropriate for this tenth
anniversary issue. And the one by Frances Butler is quirky
Well, you have to read the article maybe three times.
Kirshenbaum: You do, which is fine, yes. That s all right. Then the
rest of the issue is typical of other issues. All the
departments are there, reviewing and so on. But it is a
Is that because it was a tenth anniversary or did it just
sort of work out that way?
Well, we had to make room for all the different ten designs.
And so it ended up being a double issue.
Although it s not numbered a double issue, is it?
No, but it was more extensive than other issues. And it s
still very much in demand.
Oh, I m sure.
I m running out of copies of that issue now.
In the front of this issue you ve written [reading], "For
this anniversary issue, we invited each of the designers who
had designed an issue or cover of Fine Print to provide us
with an original graphic design on the theme of ten or on an
anniversary theme." And let s see- -one, two, three, four,
five, six--six of those people were unable to participate,
That s a lot of
but the rest were, apparently,
They obviously had a lot of fun with this. If you look at
all of these different ten designs, they re really quite
Some of them are calligraphy, some are straightforward type,
some of them are mixed, some of them are really very, very
And a lot of them don t even mention their names; it s just
celebratory of Fine Print.
I think I had more fun with that. I sent out the requests
to all the people who had designed covers or designed issues
of Fine Print, and then they came back with just marvelous,
Harlan: I think they re just absolutely brilliant, some of them.
Harlan: For instance--! don t know who that is, but it uses type
that doesn t look like type.
Kirshenbaum: Yes. That looks like Peter Koch s ex-wife [Shelley Hoyt-
Koch] . Isn t that fun?
Harlan: They re quite ambitious.
Kirshenbaum: Some of them are.
Harlan: You didn t pay them, did you?
Kirshenbaum: No. And most of them were pleased to be in it because they
felt it was important. Of course, the same issue had this
wonderful cover by Hermann Zapf.
Harlan: I was going to get to that in a minute. Do you knowlet s
see- -who didn t contribute? Do you know why they didn t?
They just didn t have time or they couldn t do it anymore
Kirshenbaum: Well, whatever. I think Will Powers at that time tended to
be a little self-effacing, shall I say?
Kirshenbaum: He s kind of gotten over it now.
Harlan: I would hope so, for his sake. [laughter]
Kirshenbaum: He s really great now. He s working for the Minnesota
History Association. He does book design. Of course, he
did advertising design for many years, so he kept the wolf
from the door. But he was glad to get back to designing
Harlan: The cover of this issue (tenth anniversary issue) is by
Harlan: As I looked at that cover, I thought it was in contrast to
these quirky, imaginative treatment of "tens," the "ten"
Harlan: Except perhaps for the border and his calligraphy.
Kirshenbaum: Right. Very classical.
Harlan: It says a lot about where he s coming from.
Harlan: We ve mentioned earlier that for the German issue the cover
was by Roswitha Quadflieg, and Zapf didn t like it,
particularly because, I think, it was too quirky, not
Kirshenbaum: Right. Yes, he really hated that cover!
Kirshenbaum: What did he used to say about it? Something about two cats
and- -some thing aboutoh, I can t--
Harlan: Well, there is a cat on the cover, isn t there?
Kirshenbaum: Yes. I think he was very disappointed because for the
German issue he would have liked to have something more
Harlan: Yes, probably he would.
IV COVER ART AND A BOOK ON TYPE
[Supplementary Interview: December 14, 1999] ##
Designers and Artists of Fine Print Covers; Adrian Wilson,
Frances Butler, Sumner Stone, Hermann Zapf. and Others
This is for insertion B, and this covers the artistic covers
for fine print and how you got there. After the initial
copies which have banners, which [become?] quite attractive
and are by different people, you decided to move to a full-
cover artistic cover. The first one is volume five, number
four, October 1979. Tell us who designed it and how you
happened to choose that one.
It was designed by Adrian Wilson, and since the features in
the issue were all pressmarks of different presses, he used
the pressmarks that he chose and he made a cover of them.
There s a Valenti Angelo, a Jack Stauffacher, Rampant Lions,
and there was Arion Press. Oh, no, this wasn t Rampant
Lions [points]; this is Rampant Lions. This was another
English press. And I think that s another Valenti.
Anyway, there were all these different designs, and he
put them on the cover.
And you chose Adrian because he was here and because you
knew him and liked him--
And because he certainly was one of the eminent printers by
So you were satisfied then with this first attempt at an
artistic cover. Now with this cover and subsequent covers
you re choosing a different artist each time. How did you
do that? You must have had kind of a want list of people
you wanted to be involved.
First we started with the banners in the large format. And
that continued through volume five, 1979.
Through number four?
Yes. And that was all banners. Then for the next issue,
volume eight, number four, Frances Butler wanted to write an
article about superannuated color printing techniques.
Did she approach you on this? Do you remember?
I can t remember, but I think she did. I would just gobble
up any suggestions that people made. She wanted to
demonstrate one of the superannuated color printing
techniques on the cover. So I let her have the whole cover
to do it.
After Adrian s cover had come out, and particularly hers,
what kind of response did you get from subscribers?
For one thing, they were really mad at me for changing the
format. They didn t like a bigger issue. But I soon
discovered that having a larger format permitted me a lot
more content and the same number of press runs. So of
course I took advantage of that by having a larger format.
Once they got used to the larger format perhaps they forgave
Yes, I think they did. But they liked the small format, you
How much did you pay people for this work? Could you pay
Yes, I did. Later, I paid them a measly sum, probably about
a hundred dollars .
So they weren t doing it for the money.
No. They did it because of love. They wanted to be in Fine
Print and they wanted their work to be seen by people who
appreciated good design and good calligraphy and good
printing- -they wanted to display their skills to other fine
When you think about it, how many other options do they have
to do a cover to a periodical? There weren t any--or there
were very few.
Right. Maybe the New Yorker.
Yes, but you know, that s a different world. And also I
noticed early on that you were using artists not just in
California or the Bay Area but all over. Do you remember
who the first European you used was?
Kirshenbaum: Let s see, this cover was by Joseph Blumental, a highly
respected typographer and printer in New York, and his cover
is classical, 16th century, using a decorative frame by
Simon de Colines (1542). His article on book arts mazagine
was very effectively illustrated by Mark Livingston.
The first foreign cover designer that we had was
Sebastian Carter of Rampant Lions press in England.
He designed a cover using a multilineal letter form, which
I m sure he designed himself, in red outline letters.
I think that cover is particularly handsome; it s very
Let s go back. After Adrian Wilson you said you had
Frances Butler. Then you moved on to some east coast people
No. [indicates] This which is by Kris Holmes, then a
California digital type designer. The banner is in a very
fancy calligraphic script in two colors, blue and black. It
is a foretaste of her calligraphic type face, Isadora.
We ve talked about your first non-American. But before that
you found some artists in- -what state was it in?
East Hampton, Massachusetts.
And who was that?
Well, one of them was Carol J. [Blynn?]. she did a cover
design from a linoleum cut of a Japanese paper maker. A
second was Barry Moser.
Harlan: Do you think that working with her you kind of broke into
the East, and they knew who you were and you had other
Harlan: It probably worked that way generally, didn t it?
One of my favorite covers is volume seven, number three,
July 1981. This is a wonderful marbled flower spread across
the cover, and it was by Chris Weimann, the great marble r
from Los Angeles who unfortunately died at an early age.
Then the calligraphy was done by Sumner Stone.
Harlan: So that s the first time Sumner worked for Fine Print too.
Kirshenbaum: He started as a calligrapher, a wonderful calligrapher . In
fact, we collaborated to do a full year on a single sheet,
and Sumner did it for me.
Harlan: You and Sumner collaborated?
Kirshenbaum: No, I didn t do anything. I just said I want a full sheet
for a whole year.
Harlan: It wasn t a Fine Print publication.
Kirshenbaum: Yes, it was.
Harlan: So you commissioned it then?
Harlan: Oh, I wonder if we have that in the archive.
Kirshenbaum: Gee, I don t know, because I have not been able to find a
copy since then.
Harlan: You know people throw out calendars [laughs].
Kirshenbaum: They do. It was really well done, and Sumner was such a
talent as a calligrapher. He learned calligraphy from Lloyd
Reynolds, a well known teacher of calligraphy at Reed
College in Portland, Oregon. He and several other students
of Reynolds went on to become designers of digital type.
So this is one of your favorites, this marbled paper
technique. It s in two colors, too (vol. 7, no. 1).
Marbled flowers, yes.
Green and red.
Green and red. It s just beautiful.
Meanwhile, I was making contacts with people in Europe.
One of the people that I particularly enjoyed knowing was
He was from The Netherlands. He designed this cover for
vol. 17, no. 2, 1981, which was a special Netherlands issue
because it had a big article on the types of Jan van
Krimpen. So then I decided to ask this Dutch type designer
if he would make a cover, and this is what he came up with.
It s two-color, orange and white, and it s got two little
This is the cover for volume seven, number 1, January 1981.
We had an article in it by Barry Moser talking about how he
illustrated Dante with watercolors and wood engravings.
These were used in that edition of Dante from the University
of California press.
It was printed using a very, very fine screen that really
represented the watercolors very well, and it was printed at
the University of California Presstheir edition of Dante s
Inferno. So anyway, the only disturbing part of it was that
it was the first time we had an image of frontal male nudity
on the cover.
Or any nudity. Were people shocked?
It was funny, but not one person commented on that. I
thought they would say, "How dare you desecrate your
magazine, blah blah blah," but they didn t.
This is July 82, volume eight, number three: the Eric
Gill centenary issue, and it was designed by Christopher
Skelton of England, and since it was an Eric Gill issue he
used Gill San Serif and the burning bush pressmark of Eric
Harlan: And it s in red and black. Very effective.
Harlan: The next issue you describe as having a "boo-boo" in it,
which made the designer quite angry.
Kirshenbaum: Yes. The designer was Max Caflisch of Switzerland, and he
was very disturbed. He didn t yell at us; he said, "How is
it that you don t know what a Caslon italic should look
Harlan: Part of the banner is Caslon italic.
Kirshenbaum: Right. And then the main part of the cover is composed of
four enlarged 16th century ornaments printed one over the
other in orange and green.
Harlan: And what s the boo-boo?
Kirshenbaum: See how there s a little swash on the capitals?
Harlan: Capital R, capital A.
Kirshenbaum: There s a little kern on the end of the swash capital, and
the N has no little kern.
Harlan: And do you know how that happened?
Kirshenbaum: It was probably somebody who was setting the type.
Harlan: Who was the artist, do you know?
Kirshenbaum: No, I don t know. But somewhere between the press and the
setting, apparently they had a broken--
Harlan: It s a swash letter, and the kern is missing from the N.
Harlan: Well, that ll happen.
Kirshenbaum: He expressed some displeasure.
Harlan: [laughs] Is that all?
One of the most remarkable covers that I ever commissioned
was by Chris Weimann.
He was an American.
Yes, he was an American.
Working where? Do you remember?
He was in Los Angeles. He was exploring the history of
marbling in southern India, and he discovered that there
were these images all done in marbling of very complex
figures like deer and a lion gobbling up a goat, some foxes.
He managed to create this cover for us in which he used the
techniques of the Indian marbling in order to create his
cover design with all the mottos that I told you earlier.
That was absolutely remarkable. I just loved his cover. It
was the one cover that was really, really popular. And then
of course inside the issue there was an article by Weimann
describing exactly Indian techniques of marbling in early
Indian paintings and how they made these marbled images. In
his article, he shows exactly how they did it, so I was very
pleased to have his cover design.
He died of cancer at an early age, didn t he?
Yes, he did. That was so sad. I still keep in touch with
his wife, Ingrid.
There are several photos in the archive of him and his wife.
Is she still involved in this kind of work?
She doesn t do it herself, but she does show his work.
She s very devoted. She s gone to several marbling
conferences and so on. They ve even invited her to come to
Turkey and to see the marbling that they do there.
This is volume nine, number three, July 1983, and it has
a brilliant cover by Wesley Tanner of various shades of blue
for the mountains and then there s sort of a middle ground
of red and a river in blue running through a field of
yellow, and a big green tree and a smaller green tree in
This is based upon his own artwork,
he printed it.
He painted this before
Well, let s say he planned it. This is all letterpress, so
you can imagine how he must have fussed over the make-ready
that was necessary to reproduce this.
We have kept in the archive all of the blocks involved in
this, and of course it s a multi-block process-- just
It is. You know, he came to me and said, "Look, I have this
vision of a fine print cover, and this image is in my mind
and I really want to do a cover." But see, I had a rule
that said you could only do one banner design or one cover
design. You can t do two. But he was so convincing that I
let him go ahead. He had already designed an entire early
issue of Fine Print, using Fournier ornaments for the
banner, but he had never done a whole cover. So I relented
and I said, "Okay, go ahead." And he came up with this
beautiful cover, all letterpress.
It s stunning.
It shows you what letterpress can do when it s properly
This received an award, didn t it?
Yes, it did. It won the AIGA magazine cover award.
That must have made you very pleased.
It did, and of course Wesley was delighted.
Can you imagine how much time he put in on this?
It must have been really mind-boggling.
This is July 84, volume ten, number three. This cover
is by Sarah Chamberlain, who is a great wood engraver and
did illustrations of animals in her fine books. I just fell
in love with them; they were so wonderful. I asked her if
she would like to design a cover of Fine Print, and of
course she did. I say "of course"--! mean, she could have
turned me down [chuckles], but she didn t, and so I have
this wonderful cover. It s all done by wood engraving, and
then it s enlarged and printed from a photo engraving.
Tell us the subject of it.
We have four bears,
There s a papa bear who is catching
And he s fly-casting, and the rod goes up into the banner of
He s carrying in his pocket The Complete Angler [laughter],
just to get the book thing in, you know. And then the mama
bear is sitting on the bank on a rock and she has her
thermos there and she s designing the cover of fine print
[laughs] on sort of a board there. And then the little baby
bears are having fun plucking berries or running their
little boat on the stream,
It s just a completely charming,
It is. And it shows such detailed craftsmanship,
lot of work in that.
There s a
Oh, she is a wonderful wood engraver. I ve lost touch with
her lately. I should get in touch with her again and see if
she has any books, because I loved her books.
That s really neat.
I made a trip to Italy in the 1980s--I can t remember
exactly what date. We did a special Italian issue following
that, and I wrote an article on three stars of Italian
bookmaking, and that was October 1985, volume eleven, number
four. And of course I couldn t do less than to invite an
Italian to design the cover. That was Martino Mardersteig,
son of Giovanni Mardersteig, who was one of the greatest
fine printers in the world.
Martino also was a very creditable printer and designer.
He designed a classic constructed alphabetthat is, Roman
capitals for our cover.
In three colors.
Red and greenwhich of course are the Italian colors and
then the white.
We had a special issue on women in printing and also we
included women calligraphers of the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries. Then we had an article by Kathy
Walkup on "Notes on Women in Printing". So it was sort of
like a women s issue, although there were other things in
there also. The cover was designed by Kathy Walkup. It
shows a wonderful wood engraving from the nineteenth
century, showing the women setting type and the women
bustling around in the printing shop. The supervisor, of
course, is a man with a top hat [laughter]. The quote was
from Helen Gentry, and at first Kathy wanted to have
something that was more feminist, you know. Then of course
we didn t want to rile any men, so we kind of toned her down
a little bit. What we ended up with was a quote from Helen
Gentry. She says, "The feminine touch in printing is not a
matter of using italics as some might think. It takes place
in the same way that all individuality takes place.
Personal style comes through handling of the type." She
accepted that and we ran it that way.
For the tenth anniversary issue (vol. 10, no. 1, 1975) I
wanted something really special, so what I did was I asked
for everybody to send me designs on the theme of "ten".
Then I put those throughout the issue, and we had some
wonderful entries. So for the tenth anniversary issue I
wanted to have somebody really special do the cover, and of
course I could only think of the greatest type designer in
the world at that time and still, and that is Hermann Zapf.
He designed this wonderful cover for us. Of course I
approached him with trepidation because I thought, "Oh,
he ll never be able to design a cover for us because he s so
busy and important."
Had you had contact with him before or did he do work for
you before? Or was this the first time?
This was the first time. So I approached him very gingerly
and I said, "Would you like to?" And he said, "Yes." So he
did a very classic design with beautiful Roman capitals and
a gold border and his signature in the gold.
Is that italic type or is that his hand?
That s his hand right there.
A real personal touch.
His signature and the issue of Fine Print is written in the
gold band that surrounds the design.
It s very nice.
It s beautiful. What can I say?
You can say you re proud of it [chuckles].
Kirshenbaum: It s so classic. I was very proud of it.
This is volume twelve, number three, July 1986. The
cover design is by Harry Duncan, one of my favorite American
printers. A designer of distinction and also a great
philosopher of printing. I was very pleased to have him
design the cover. It is utter simplicity- -and yet so
perfectly arranged. What he did was to use a relief etching
made by Keith Achepohl. This was a direct etching on zinc.
Then it was mounted for letter press printing. Then the
type was Perpetua and Octavian, set by Harry Duncan.
It s a lovely cover.
It s silver almost, isn t it?
Right. There is a silver ink in this etching; it s really
wonderful. The great thing is the way Duncan has it spaced
so that it s just perfectthe letters, the fine print, et
cetera, the volume number and all that.
It s a lovely cover.
It s poised to the left and then the zinc etching is up and
down next to it all the way down to the bottom of the page.
Tell us what number now.
This is January 86, volume twelve, number one. The cover
design is made of different typecases.
The lay of the case, right?
Yes, and these are layouts of the case in different
It s roman alphabet, Cyrillic, black letter and so on.
Then there s Hebrew, and down here there s arabic, and down
here there are Egyptian hieroglyphics. This was specially
designed by Glenn Goluska.
Do you remember who he was?
Yes. He was a Canadian who had the Nightshade Press. He
also printed books at his own press called Imprimerie
Dromedaire, which means Camel Printing Press. He was expert
in non-Roman types, and that s why he was able to do these
It s quite a dramatic cover. Very interesting.
This is volume thirteen, number two, April 1987. The cover
is very dramatic. It s all an orange background with purple
ornaments in the shape of a diamond almost, and they re all
done from stencil ornaments by William Addison Dwiggins.
The cover was designed by Dorothy Abbey, who was a close
associate of W.A. Dwiggins. They collaborated on, for
example, the Piiterschein Press. She had a lot to do with
the Piiterschein Press, and she was a wonderful photographer
and designer herself, but she hid her light, her talent,
under the basket of W.A. Dwiggins. So she used his
ornaments in designing the cover.
Is there something in the issue itself about Dwiggins?
Yes. It s an article by Steven Heller called "William
Addison Dwiggins: A Current Assessment." And there s a
second article by Alexander Nesbitt: "A Contemporary s View
His work is still popular. He did a lot of work for
commercial presses like Knopf, for example.
One of the most interesting covers was that done for our
special Czechoslovakia issue, January 1987, number one,
volume thirteen. The cover is strictly type, and it was
designed by Jan Jiskra. The cover was designed in the Czech
colors of blue, black, and red. The types, which are
[characters strictly letter forms?] of the Czech alphabet
and all the accents that they have, and the types were the
creation of Wojciech Preissig [spells].
Earlier we talked about the content of this issue because it
is quite special. I ve always thought it was one of your
most ambitious issues.
It was all the inspiration of James Eraser,
Did I say this
He introduced me to Renata Raecke.
editor for the German one.
Then she was the guest
These international issues would in a sense be the hardest
to pull together. They certainly add to the luster of the
whole series. Was there any one personor personswho was
of help to you in this direction?
Yes. 1 think the person who urged me to expand my coverage
to international countries was James Fraser of Fairleigh
Dickinson University in New Jersey. He had a remarkable
knowledge of all Eastern European bookmaking and
printmaking. He was the one who encouraged me to do the
special German issue and the special Czech issue.
Volume fourteen, number four, October 1998, is one of
the most remarkable covers we ever had. It looks like a
weaving in three or four colors red, deep red, blue, and
green. It s all inter-knit as though it were a fabric. It
was designed by Bonnie O Connell at Omaha s Fine Arts Press
where she also directed Abattoir Editions. The cover is
what she calls a ikat technique for both color letterpress
prints and pattern papers for bookbinding. She credits her
inspiration to ikat masterworks by native weavers in Africa,
Indonesia, Japan, and Guatemala. The [letters fine print?]
are in a wonderful, open typeface called Cristal. I don t
know who the designer of that was, but it s quite
I d like to say that I think one of the reasons that the
cover designs were so successful was that I let the graphic
artists that did the covers have complete freedom, and even
if I didn t much like the cover design I always let the
artists have their own way. I guess that was part
compensation for a very small fee for doing it, that they
could absolutely have complete freedom to do any design they
want within the color restrictions. Sometimes I was greatly
surprised by what they produced [laughter].
But you still used them, right?
An example of a cover that you could possibly have predicted
is the next one we re going to talk about, which is--
Volume fifteen, number two, April 89. You can see that the
cover is just a pastiche of different colors: gray, yellow,
black, blue, and green, and different forms in kind of a
crazy patchwork quilt design. The interesting thing about
that was that it was actually an example of screenless
lithography. This cover was designed by Richard Bigus, a
very talented and I guess I d say adventuresome printer. It
was the result of a collaboration experiment with printer
Steve Mott of Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo.
The artwork was created by using film positives and wet and
dry media on matte acetate. The printing required gray,
yellow, blue, and black inks. The effect is one of
screenless lithography. It is a very unusual and striking
Do you know if screenless lithography was in its infant
stage when this happened, or had it been around a while?
So this was kind of
No, I don t think it was widely used,
an experimental use of it.
It certainly is a unique cover.
The next cover is quite a contrast from the free figuration
--or non-figuration--of the Bigus cover. This is volume
fifteen, number one, January 89. What it shows is, on the
left side against a white field is a large titlefine
print, et cetera, which was cut in metal. It s a Garamond
cut in metal by Stempel in Germany in 1924, closely
following the original sixteenth-century designs of Claude
Garamond. Now within the time band at the right, with a
pink background, are all the different versions of his
capital letters--Garamond capitals.
And of course there were many because he was very
Sure. It s the words "Fine Print, Fine Print, Fine Print--"
Then a background of a jumble of different capitals.
Right. [Then come into?) the digital forms.
So there s a lot going on there.
Who did this?
It was done by Margery Cantor. She arranged this and was
able to acquire the electrotypes of the original Garamond
capitals from Germany. Then she went on to do in a band at
the edges all the distortions possible with Adobe
Illustrator 88, and finally at the bottom of the band she
repeats the title.
I hadn t realized before myself, but there s a lot going on
in that one panel.
It s amazing.
A lot of work and a lot of presentation.
The next cover, volume sixteen, number three, autumn
1990, is again an absolute contrast to the previous classic
one, just as the one before that was. It s perhaps the most
startling of all the covers in the sense of hitting you in
Kirshenbaum: Yes. It looks like a dancer in some kind of cabaret, and
she s wearing a sort of a fluffy background on her butt
Like wings or something.
Wings on her butt, yes [laughter]. Her body is in yellow,
and her suit in black and she has sort of a crown hat on,
and she s holding her hands up. It s a red background, and
then the fluffy things protrude out of her butt [chuckles]
are all in yellow with red spots.
It s sort of like German expressionist art, but it s not
exactly. It s quite unique,
What did you think when you
I was flabbergasted. That s the trouble with just blindly
asking somebody. This was a special issue where we had our
broadside roundup where we would invite printers to submit
Is this from a broadside then?
I think he intended it to be like a broadside. It s very
Who s the artist?
The artist is Herbert Gutsch of Berlin, Germany. He is
intending to do a kind of a flamboyant cover in honor of the
broadside roundup that we had in this issue.
I think he certainly succeeded in flamboyance.
Yes. The type used on the cover is Block Condensed,
designed by H. Hoffman in 1908. It was originally designed
as an advertising type. So he put it to good use here.
Do you recall getting any comments on this?
I don t recall, but I think it was shocking to everybody,
really, because it s so flamboyant. That s what happens
when you take a chance on a designer. But I m pleased. It
was so much fun waiting to see what these different artists
And the last one we ll talk about is volume sixteen, number
one, which has this striking cover by Fritz Eichenberg.
He was a master wood engraver. He did dramatic
illustrations for the great Russian classics like Dostoevsky
and Tolstoy and so on.
The ones I remember as I child are his illustrations for
Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.
This may be from Wuthering Heights.
It s just classic.
There s an article in the issue on him, and that s why the
cover. Who designed the cover?
It s interesting to note that it s a detailit shows this
pattern of bare branches issuing from a tree trunk on the
left side and covering the whole issue with dark black
branches. This is a detail from Fritz Eichenberg s print,
"Heathcliff Under the Tree," for the cover of Emily Bronte s
Wuthering Heights. He did several Bronte books.
Who actually designed the cover?
The design was by Antonie Eichenberg, a German-born artist
and graphic designer. She was very talented.
He was dead by this time, so was she younger than he? Or
was she quite old?
I think she was younger. Again, she s an example of a
woman, a very talented woman, who defers to her husband- -
Subsumes her career to his.
Right. And the words "Fine Print" are all hand-lettered by
Oh, really? But he s an amazing engraver.
Yes, he s a wonderful wood engraver.
I think you said correctly that these covers were a lot of
fun to work with because you didn t know what to expect,
really. A ton of surprises.
I would choose people and then sometimes they surprised me.
But you know, I chose them because 1 had seen their work
somewhere or I knew of their work. And then people just
volunteered: "Oh, could I do a cover for you?" That s how
It s nice to have too much talent to choose from.
Publishing a Book; Fine Print on Type, 1989
Fine Print was involved in the publication of one book: Fine
Print on Typel
Yes. We shared publication with an outfit called Bedford
Arts, which was run by the wife of a man named Peter Bedford
who was a big real estate mogul, and he made a lot of money
creating shopping malls mainly over in the East Bay and
further east. I gather that he funded her to do whatever
I can t remember her first name at
she wanted, the wife,
Was it in the East Bay?
No, they had an office in San Francisco. So they were
publishing all kinds of books on avant-garde design and all
that. I can t remember if I approached them or they
approached me. But in any case, we had a collaboration and
we shared the cost of the book. I think I did keep the
And so anyway, it worked out pretty well. I mean, I
think our collaboration worked out pretty well, even though
they had kind of a director who liked to consider himself
one of the literati of San Francisco.
Harlan: Whatever that means.
Kirshenbaum: Well, you know. Well, we do have some in the sense of,
like, Ferlinghetti and all that, that gang that was mostly
in the sixties, right?
Harlan: Right, or earlier.
Kirshenbaum: Yes. And so he prided himself on being part of that clique.
A little bit of an outsider, I think. But anyway, I managed
to get along with him. It was very difficult.
Harlan: Well, you can get along with most people.
Kirshenbaum: Yes! Well, anyway, it was a way for me to share the cost of
producing book. And so I went along with it. And we did
produce the book. And then shortly thereafter, her husband
didn t like her losing money because he was a very profit-
oriented person. So one day he just locked the door
Harlan: Of what, the house?
Kirshenbaum: On the office. And he kicked everybody out, including his
Harlan: [laughs] Oh, dear.
Kirshenbaum: Yes. So that was the ultimate fate of Bedford Arts.
Harlan: Did that affect the fate of Fine Print on Typel
Kirshenbaum: Well, it didn t really because by then we had already [phone
Kirshenbaum: He just kicked everybody out and locked the door.
Harlan: And where were the copies of the book stored?
I can t remember.
But not just there.
No, no, certainly not. No, we had a warehouse or something
where they were stored.
Do you remember how many copies you printed?
I think about two thousand.
And I note that it was available it says here [reading]:
"$39.95 hardcover and $19.95 softcover." Does that sound
Right. Now the price is $25.00 for the softcover and $50.00
for the hardcover.
Do you still have copies?
A few, yes, of the hardcover, and many of the softcover.
Yes. And this is a collection of articles from Fine Print
in the section On Type.
Yes. And other places in Fine Print. And, as I say, my
only regret was that we never had a chance to put in the
book the last Fine Print "On Type" article, which was by
Juliet Spahn Twomey. She researched the roman inscriptional
influences on Paduan manuscripts and on the creation of
Jensen type. It was a superb article, really good, and I
think really groundbreaking. I did have a lot of
compliments from people in Europe, especially people like
the head of the St. Bride s Library, James Mosley.
Yes. And John Dreyfus and so on. They really, really liked
it because they were so interested in her being able to
trace this inscriptional influence into the type.
I was just looking over the contents here of the Fine Print
on Type book. It s quite a spread. I see big names like G.
W. Ovink, the great European designer, and Mosley and John
Dreyfus and Sumner Stone, Chuck Bigelow, Paul Hayden
Duensing did a couple of articles, and Kris Holmes, and the
introduction, I think, is by Linnea Gentry.
I ve looked at some reviews of the book, copies of which are
in the Fine Print archives at the Bancroft, and they re all
And it does seem to serve a purpose, and it also, 1 think,
reflects very well upon the quality of Fine Print that this
was the kind of thing appearing in Fine Print.
I d love to eventually do a gathering of all the articles on
bookbinding and papermaking and sell that as a separate
book. Well, as soon as I get through with this index thing,
that s the first thing I m going to do. And do you know, I
actually had someone, a man in Chicago, who published a
magazine about type, called Serif--! "ve forgotten his name
now. But, you know, I had a little tiff with him because he
wanted to go ahead and--in fact, he went ahead and contacted
the bookbinders without my permission or knowledge, and so I
had to get wild with him.
Well, I would think so.
But anyway, he thought I had given him my assent, but I
would never sign up for something like that without getting
an agreement, signing an agreement with him to produce it,
so he didn t have any claim.
This was your first enterprise in publishing a book?
Do you remember--! mean, it s a big undertaking. Do you
remember why you decided to do it, to produce this in a book
Well, because I thought the articles were all superior and
deserved to be together in a book, and that s the same thing
with bookbinding. I think some of the best writing on
bookbinding appeared in Fine Print.
In any case, it was the same reason that I put together the
articles in Fine Print on Type, because I felt that these
articles- -thanks to these very wise editors that I had--
Bigelow and Gentry and Duensing, you know- -they were so
good, and thanks to their influence- -and I say that I myself
had something to do with it--and I was very proud of them,
that series of articles that we did, and so that was what
encouraged me to want to publish it.
The same way I feel about the bookbinding, that I really
never read such good articles on bookbinding, so completely
understandable, even by a non-bookbinder and so interesting.
And the reason I think they were interesting was that I let
the binders speak, themselves, about how they determined the
binding design or how they concluded on the structure of it,
so there are all kinds of different structures also in the
bookbinding articles. I let them express themselves about
their own creativity. And that s why I think they re such
wonderful articles, and that s why I d love to get them
together in a book.
Well, you mentioned on the one "On Type" that Peter Bedford
shut the shop because it wasn t making money. Did you lose
money on this? Or was he upset that you just weren t making
Well, no, it wasn t just Fine Print. The enterprise was
just losing money--! assume that it must have been overall
The whole outfit.
Yes. And so, I mean, Fine Print on Type may have been just
one more straw on the camel s back. I don t know. I never
spoke to him, Peter Bedford. I have no idea what his
rationale was or why he did it so suddenly.
Maybe he was having a spat with his wife.
Maybe. I don t know.
I should think she would have been a little embarrassed by
Oh, yes, she was.
[laughs] Oh, well. So this one exercise in publishing a
book certainly had good critical reception and didn t lose
you tons of money. It worked in that sense.
Well, you know, it s been sellingit still sells, but very
slowly. Right now we have it on Amazon.com.
Oh, do you?
That s interesting. Of course, they take big discounts.
0-h-h, wow! You know, they take a huge percentage of the
price of the book so that every copy that they sell,
ultimately we get only $11.25.
They routinely offer 30 percent off the list price of any
book, so you figure someone has to give, and it s not them.
No, no. So it s the publishers. But I m happy to get rid
of the books. So I m not going to argue whether they re
going to have 40 percent. We ve sold quite a few copies
through Amazonyou know, not a lot of copies, but just a
V THE LAST OF THE FINE PRINT YEARS
Subscribers, Advertising, and Circulation; Steven Harvard
and Stinehour Press
In reviewing some of the material in the archive, I noted
some correspondence you had with a person named Gregory
Graalfs, who was a photographer and a publisher of
photographer books. He discussed with you for a while the
idea of having a section in Fine Print on this medium. I
don t think it went anywhere, but I thought that was
interesting that you would consider that.
Yes, well, I guess I was interested because I was interested
in expanding the audience of Fine Print, and a section on
photography books seemed to be one way to do that. And
there were some superb photography books in the eighties,
just wonderful. And I think we did review one or two.
I can t recall any, but you certainly considered it?
That would have been interesting, and it would have expanded
Yes. I think it was just too much for us to handle,
know, it s a very difficult field to really get good
reviews. It just didn t work out.
Now I d like to turn to the business aspect of producing
Fine Print. Again, the archives contain the records for all
of this, so the information is there for a detailed study,
but we have already noted that when Fine Print started your
mother lent you some money so you could launch it.
And it grew in size and reputation with each issue. I
presume also that from the beginning, anyway, the number of
Do you recall what the peak number was for subscribers?
I think the peak was about 2,800, so we never did make that
leap over the 3,000 mark. That was what I wanted to do. I
wanted to increase the circulation. Towards the end there,
I was really desperate to increase the circulation because I
thought that that would solve some of our financial
You must have had a promotional program.
Yes, we did.
How did you attempt to acquire new subscribers?
Well, we had mailing lists of different book organizations,
and we would send out solicitations. For example, we traded
mailing lists with a fellow in Germany called Bartowiak. He
was doing a mailing for his compendium of presses that he
issued each year about small presses. And so I tried to
muscle in on him and trade our mailing list for his mailing
list. But I never did get to do it. I mean, I wanted to do
it, but same old story--! got sick and I couldn t pursue it.
That all went to hell.
How many of your subscribers were non-USA subscribers?
Gee, I never actually counted them up, but we had
subscribers in every continent, and almost all the national
libraries subscribed, like the New Zealand National Library,
Australian, and French and the British Library and the
Italian libraries and the French National Library. I mean,
really, it got around. It definitely got around. But I
don t know what proportion. I think it was--say, we reached
a peak of 2,800, and of those, we had about six or seven
That s a large number, actually. For libraries. And
libraries are pretty cautious about subscribing to fly-by-
Kirshenbaum: They sure are.
So that does suggest that the reputation had been
Kirshenbaum: Yes. Well, we got a few good reviews in the Library
Yes. And so that helped us get library subscriptions, and
we were quite successful in that because almost every
library that had any special collections were really
interested as a tool to know what to buy, so a lot of them
used it as a buying tool.
If you had gotten 3,000 subscribers, would that have at
least given you the break-even point for expenses?
Well, that s hard to say, but somehow I thought that
increasing the circulation was the only way to salvage the
magazine because I didn t think that our--well, one thing is
that I think I was over-ambitious in the sense that I just
loved having all these wonderful special issues, and I loved
the idea of being able to reproducein full color!--
something like La prose du Transiberien, the first
simultaneous "book" in terms of the interplay of text and
You know, a lot of people were generous to me. For
example, Steven Harvard- -when he heard my idea, you know, he
just jumped at the chance. "Let Stinehour Press do it."
And it was just wonderful. They borrowed the copy from the
New York Public Library, which was one of the few libraries
at the time that had the work. Of course, the artist, Sonia
Delauney, was the wife of Robert Delauney, who was a well-
known artist. She was lesser known, but she was a fabulous
artist and designer. She used to do costumes and every kind
I ll tell you how I happened upon it. I went to Monica
Strauss s gallery on the Upper East Side, and I walked in
the door, and she had a copy for sale in a frame, right
opposite the door. And I walked in, and I absolutely was--I
mean, open-mouthed. I thought it was so amazing- -the way
that they were able tothey call it the first simultaneous
book because she was able to integrate her art with his
poetry. It was just a marvelous piece of work. And so I
said, "I ve got to do an article on that. Are you willing
to write an article?"
Of course, Monica just loved it, too, and so she agreed
to do an article. And then, of course, Steven Harvard
agreed to make the facilities of Stinehour Press available
to us, and it was just altogether a wonderful-
Do you mean that he was simply willing to have Stinehour
produce the work at going rates, or did they give you--
Actually, it was no charge.
No charge. Because Harvard was so fascinated by the project
that he just wanted to do it. He was so wonderful. I just
regretted so much when he died. You know, he committed
That was a real tragedy.
I don t know. In a way, the loss of Steven Harvard was kind
of like a coup de grace for Fine Print because, you know, he
was helping us to make a transition from letterpress into
offset printing. There aren t too many offset printers I
would have trusted, but obviously Stinehour Press was just
wonderful, so we were going to arrange to make that change.
Unfortunately, he died before we could make the change and
so we never did, and that was a shame because letterpress
printing became increasingly expensive, and we just couldn t
I suppose that some of the attraction for Fine Print for a
lot of subscribers was that it was letterpress and not
That s true.
But I think in the hands of Harvard and Stinehour you would
have had a quality of printing that people would have
Yes, I think so.
I asked you on the question sheet I gave you if ads were an
important source of income. You ve got a note here saying
you think it s around 13 percent.
Right. And I know in the archives there s a chart. It
charts the progress of advertising. I think 13 percent
maybe 15 percent of each issue s cost would have been paid
by advertising. But then, of course, you know, that s not
figuring the cost of the ads themselves. I mean, printing
themI m saying 13 percent after we deducted the printing
costs of the ads.
Was there much turnover in subscribers? Do you have any
sense of that? There certainly was a core. I think
libraries would not be inclined at that point to cancel.
There was a core of libraries, of course. And then there
was a core of subscribers, I d say, people who just loved
Fine Print and would resubscribe without even giving them
again and again renewal notices. I d say maybe that was
maybe five to eight hundred people. And then the rest of
the people would kind of more flakey, and they would flake
off [laughs] .
Flake off. But anyway, they would say, "Oh, I used to
subscribe, but it got too expensive" and "There wasn t
enough bookbinding" or "There wasn t enough type design" or
"There weren t enough articles about this or that." And
that wasyou know, that was our intention, was to just put
all these book arts together and make them understand each
other, in a way, because where would a type designer read
about bookbinding? They wouldn t. They wouldn t make this
cross-disciplinary thing that I think is more and more
You could see that for example, some people were
attempting to do some fine printing, but they didn t know
anything about bookbinding, and they would attempt to do
their own bookbindings, which was a disaster.
Right. Same way, a bookbinder might not know anything about
typography. We had an article from well, we had an article
on the use of letterforms in bookbinding from Kay Amert, a
professor at the University of Iowa. She s a wonderful
printer. She also knows about type and letterforms and all.
She wrote an article about using letterforms in bookbinding.
And that was the kind of interdisciplinary article that I
So subscriptions provided you with, I suppose, most of your
Advertising provided you with some of your budget.
None of these were guarantees. It vacillates from issue to
Year to year. Over the period of Fine Print, which was
almost sixteen years, did you notice any inflationary trends
that were more exaggerated for one thinglike, say, paper
or typesettingthan the other? Did the costs of all of
these elements increase?
Well, we were very fortunate because we had a donation of
paper from Mohawk Paper Mills, so we really never had to
worry about the cost of paper.
Oh, that s wonderful. I didn t realize that.
You mean during the whole of Fine Print they provided the
No. We didn t make an arrangement with them until later. I
mean, the first few issues are on some other kind of paper,
and then later--! can t remember, but I remember that the
person that we were in touch with was Scott Petrequin at
Mohawk. He just liked Fine Print. So we met and we
immediately formed a friendship. I m sorry, I haven t been
in touch with him for maybe eight years or so, but he just
liked Fine Print, and he wanted to have it printed on Mohawk
paper. And so that was how we managed to get--
Well, that s quite a boon.
Absolutely. We wouldn t have been able to make it if we
hadn t had that. And still maintain the quality, you know?
Because how could we afford this Mohawk paper? We couldn t.
That s interesting. So you really were patronized in a good
sense of the word.
Absolutely. That was a very big thing for us.
Now, I did notice in some issues of Fine Print there would
be a Mohawk ad. Did you just run them gratis?
I think we did. I can t remember, but I don t think we
[laughs] I would think maybe you didn t. And then you get
the cooperation of someone like Steven Harvard, who s
willing to use Stinehour to produce certain things for you.
But there was the cost of typesetting, composition and so
Of course. And that got to be very pricey.
Well, setting Monotype was really, really expensive. I
think that was why we saw the writing on the wall that it
would become increasing expensive as fewer and fewer people
--really, when we got right down to it, the only people who
could really typeset for us was Arion Press or Stinehour
press. So that s why we really needed to go to offset
printing. But unfortunately, as 1 say, the deal with Steve
Harvard sort of fell through, and then he died, and then I
got sick, and so everything sort of fell to pieces.
Yes. Now, another source for funds would have been grants,
and you did do the grant thing.
In looking at the grants files in the Bancroft archives, I
find that you seemed to have had the most luck with the
California Arts Council.
The earliest that I ve noted for an award from them was
1984, which waswell, that s almost ten years after you
Right. And then the other important source that we had was
the NBA [National Endowment for the Arts].
Yes, I noticed that.
I think that we had two grants from them. And the last one
we had was partly to sponsor our turnover to offset
printing. We were successful in obtaining that grant, but
we were not able to use it. In fact, I just had a letter
from the woman who was the director of the Minnesota Center
for Book Arts, and we were channeling through themthe
grant through them. So the grant went through and we were
granted the money, but we never used it because, as I say,
things just went to hell. They fell apart. We did not use
the money. But it was still there! She called me and told
me that apparently the moneyshe had checked, and it was
still there! And so she used it eventually, she used the
money for one of their programs at the MCBA, and that was
At least it was used.
Yes. I m surprised that the NEA said, "Okay, blow the
whistle. These people have been hanging on too long."
Maybe so, yes. I notice in looking at the applications for
the California Arts Council that an application was a lot of
It was .
An inch thick of paper, and it goes on and on and on.
Did I hate it! I just hated that stuff. I think I
developed what I call terminal formiphobia.
And I just dreaded doing any kind of grant applications. So
I did an unfortunate thing, which was to hire grant writers.
That was really stupid.
Well, you had to try.
Kirshenbaura: That was just such a waste of time. It took them so long to
understand what we were really about, you know? It just was
a hideous situation. And it ended up costing a lot of
I would like to see a study of the success rate of grant
writers. I ll bet it s appallingly low.
Kirshenbaum: I bet it is.
Harlan: Particularly when you factor in what they cost.
Kirshenbaum: Absolutely. And that was a big mistake on our part. But we
did get a goodly number of grants, just on our own.
Yes, and I notice that you received grants from the
Fleishhacker Foundation and the Skaggs Foundation.
So, you know, you did get grants, but it just struck me that
to even apply for a grant was a lot of work.
Kirshenbaum: It was, absolutely.
And I suppose that over time, one would develop a facility
for this but--
Kirshenbaum: Well, I don t know. I never did. All I did was develop a
complete aversion to it.
[laughs] Now I want to move on to sort of the last chapter
of Fine Print, which was Pro Arte Libri. This also was a
major undertaking. It must have taken a lot of time to pull
Kirshenbaum: It took a lot of time.
So why don t you start by telling us--
Forming an Umbrella Organization. Pro Arte Libri, 1989
Do you remember when you started thinking about the need for
this kind of organization as an umbrella for Fine Print?
Yes, about 88, I think. And then we had a lot of work to
do to put it together. I couldn t have done it without the
help of Alan Freeland, who was a lawyer with Cooper White
and Cooper, one of the best known firms in publishing law.
He s been wonderful to us from the beginning, and he helped
us to form the nonprofit. I guess we felt at that point
that we weren t going to make it just on the strength of our
circulation, that we needed to form a nonprofit organization
so we could offer people the opportunity to make donations
that would be tax-deductible and be able to expand our
vision of what Fine Print could do. So that was why we did
Why that name?
Well, you know, I had a lot of objections to that name.
People said, "A Latin name like that they won t be able to
understand it." They may understand Pro Arte because there
is some other use of that word, but not Pro Arte Libri; they
would never understand. They think it means-
For art--Libri--I mean, they just don t know what it means
at all. Or Pro Arte Library is another one that they like
to use--I mean, just general people coming upon the name.
But I just liked it becauseof course, I like Latinbeing
Italian, I like Latin expression anyway, and it seemed to me
to be very good.
The proper way in Latin would have been to say Pro Arte
Librorum, books you know, plural. But I thought, oh, well,
people won t understand that at all. We used "Libri" then
it would be maybe more understandable. So that s what we
Did you form a
committee, or how did you get this thing
Kirshenbaum: Gee, I can t really remember when we got it started. But
the people who were on my first board of directors and many
of them still are, perhaps in name only because I haven t
been in touch with them but I just asked them if they would
be directors, and they would, and so
I ve got the first board includes, in addition to you,
Ginger, Helen Frederick--
Kirshenbaum: Yes, Helen was a good friend of mine. She ran a book arts
program, Pyramid Atlantic, which was located back East. I
can t remember whether it was New York or--I think it
probably was in New York. And she was very enthusiastic
Harlan: And William Bright.
Kirshenbaum: Yes. He s a linguist. He has since retired from the board.
He was a contributing editor. Anytime I had any problems
with the language or bilingual editions or anything, I would
just send them to Bill and he would do it.
Harlan: And we ve mentioned Alan Freeland already.
Harlan: And Paul Hayden Duensing we ve mentioned.
Harlan: Merker? Ken Merker?
Kirshenbaum: Yes. He s the head of the book arts centeractually, they
call it the Center for the Book at University of Iowa.
Harlan: Oh, yes. And Chuck Bigelow we ve mentioned.
Harlan: And Decherd Turner.
Kirshenbaum: Oh, yes, Decherd.
Harlan: Decherd Turner, yes. And Betsy Davids.
Harlan: I ve got a note here that the first meeting was in August of
1989. Does that sound--
Harlan: And when you met, you probably drew up some goals and
purposes of what you hoped to achieve.
You also were obviously thinking in terms of becoming an
organization that would impress someone enough to give you
It must have been a major concern. So, in looking at the
literature that you produced, I found that Pro Arte Libri
was an umbrella organization which incorporated Fine Print:
but did much more.
Yes. What we did was we tried to find new audiences for
fine printing and book arts. One of the first things we did
was in 1990 we decided we would go to the American
Booksellers Association fair in Las Vegas. And they were so
thrilled that we were going to come and do demonstrations of
books arts and digital type and digital type production.
There s where Adobe Systems kindly arranged for us to have a
computer and to have a couple of people there so they could
talk about computer type design. And we had a person who is
still doing metal type founding and type production,
Golganooza Type Foundry, and that s in New Hampshire, I
And you weren t paying for them.
No, because they considered it an opportunity to have
publicity. And then I collected a bunch of beautiful fine
printing to put on display, and the ABA was so kind as to
provide plastic cases for us to display all the fine books.
They were just so generous. And they were crazy about the
idea of having fine printing and book arts as a display. It
was quite successful. It almost killed us financially,
[laughter] Because we had to- -we drove in a van.
Let s see. It was Alan Hillesheim, Barbara Golden, and me
Oh, that s okay.
Anyway, there were a couple of other participants. So we
rented a van, and we all drove all the way to Las Vegas.
And then, of course, I had to pay for everybody s
accommodations. So it really killed us financially, but it
was--I hoped it would be an enormous boost for us. I hoped
that we would get a lot of subscribers. But we didn t. And
so we didn t get any financial reward from doing this, even
though a lot of people found it fascinating.
We just had a wonderful combination of things. We had a
demonstration of bookbinding and marbling of paper and
everything. It was a fabulous thing. And, you know, I had
so many other organizations, like American Library
Association and Special Libraries Association and various
other organizations all wanted to have their own
demonstration of book arts.
Harlan: But you couldn t afford it [laughs].
Kirshenbaum: No, we couldn t.
Harlan: Well, also the time. It must have been a major undertaking.
Kirshenbaum: Oh, yes, it was. I mean, just gathering these people was a
very major thing. But somehow we managed it. We must have
been crazy. I think we were.
Harlan: Well, might have been. So this very successful display at
ABA did not yield money or new subscriptions in vast
numbers, so that was a disappointment.
Financial Desperation and a Benefit Auction
Harlan: Then you attempted to raise money through a book auction?
Kirshenbaum: Yes. Well, that was a desperation move.
Harlan: Do you remember when that occurred? Yes, December 1990 was
the auction itself, by the California Book Auction.
Harlan: It s called the Library of Fine Print Magazine.
Harlan: You say this was a desperate act. Is that because you were
really short of money?
Absolutely. And I had creditors calling me. For example,
the fellow that made the plates for printing letterpress
illustrations, and he was just on my case. And it was the
first time that I had ever experienced thatyou know, of
It does not pay to be a debtor.
Oh, it was just awful! And, of course, I knew that there
were printersyou know, I think at that time Powers &
Tanner were running Fine Print. I think I owed them money,
and I owed the plate maker money, and I owed the bindery
money, and I just had all these bills coming on me. And, of
course, we spent a lot of our money going to the ABA, so
By this time you also had a permanent staff that you had to
Absolutely. And that was what killed me.
I think so, because I had an advertising manager, and I had
a circulation manager, and then I had one or two other
people. So I really think that for our budget, I had too
many people. But at that time, it just seemed like
everybody was so essential, that I couldn t get along
without them. I certainly didn t want to manage
advertising, so at that point I had two women who did it.
There was Debbie--! forgot her last nameand then the other
one was Barbara Golden. Barbara was a real whiz at getting
advertisers you know, she d just call them up in her
friendly way and say, "Oh, you know, we re having a special
Italian issue. Do you want to advertise your Italian
books?" and so on. They just fell for it. She would chat
them up. She was a great phone talker. So she really did a
And the other one, of course, was Deborah- -whatever her
last name was .
Was Ginger on your staff, too?
Yes, Ginger. You know, it was really bad because I had to
pay Ginger a decent living wage. Well, it was barely a
living wage, and so she got really, I guess, depressed about
not earning enough money. And I had to provide health
insurance, and that was something that was just reallyit
was so expensive. I felt like I morally had to do it. And
it was good because Liz Sluzinksy, who just came on board,
and a few months later she had an acute appendicitis, so I
don t know what would have happened if she hadn t had that
health insurance. So there was something thatwhen you get
into a growing business, which is more than, say, two or
three people, you ve simply got to employ more people
because you can t do it all yourself, and that s what I
found. And then it got just too burdensome.
What I should have done is A) go offset, B) fire about
half my staff --you know, get rid of the advertising manager,
get rid of whatever--! can t remember what all the different
You had a managing editor, you had a production manager, a
development director, a circulation director-
--a mailing supervisor, and a press book secretary. That s
a big staff.
Well, the press book secretary was a voluntary position.
But I suspect, as you say, you found out that once these
people came, and if they were good, that you really thought
you couldn t do without them.
You may have wondered how you carried on without them for so
But it is a very interesting experience thatif you run
kind of a cottage industry, in one sense it works better,
but it also--
It limits what you can do. And that s the thing. I always
had more ambition for Fine Print, and whenever opportunities
would arise, I would just want to do them so badly that I
would just go ahead, even though it wasn t really so smart.
And we certainly should never have gone to Las Vegas to the
ABA. But, you know, I wanted it. I wanted to do it. I
wanted people to know what fine printing and the different
book arts were all about. People were so amazed to see
paper marbling and bookbinding and all that. It was just
wonderful. But it was really costly.
Yes, yes. So one way to try to raise money was your
decision to sell the library of Fine Print.
Absolutely. And at that time I called Doug Johns. I had
been friendly with him. Of course, I had worked for
California Book Auction when it restarted in 1972 because
previously it had been run by Maurice Powers s brother. He
was looking for a cataloguer. Of course, I never catalogued
any rare books, so it was a real learning thing for me, and
so I signed on as his only cataloguer at that time. We did
some very nice catalogs.
Yes. So you had this association with California Book
Yes. I called Doug Johns, and I said, "Look, we re in
desperate straits, and we really need to raise money, and
the only way I can think to do it is to sell off all the
books that we ve gathered." I m talking books that I bought
because I liked them and books that were donated just
because people wanted to give them to us.
Were some of these books books that you had received from
the publisher or the printer for review?
Well, very few of them, I tell you, because we made it our
policy if you would send us an expensive book for review, we
would either review it and give it to the reviewer as a
reward because they didn t get any other payment for writing
a review, or we would return the book to you. But many
times I just liked the book, so I would buy it or I would--!
don t remember how I--anyway, I did get a good library
So when you were preparing for this benefit auction, you put
out the call to friends and subscribers and anyone else you
could think of to donate books for the sale.
And I remember in one of the letters in the Fine Print
archives it says the books should be worth at least fifty
dollars or it s hardly worth the effort. In the catalog is
a long list of donors who gave, and there are names of
printers and friends.
Kirshenbaum: Yes, wonderful, wonderful--
Claire Van Vliet and the Yolla Bolly Press and Sue Allen and
Martin Antonetti and Richard Bigus and--
And Muir Dawson. So these are all friends. David Goines.
The catalog lists 240 books. The sale was held, and were
you pleased with the results of the sale?
No, I wasn t. Of course, I never would be, you know. I
mean, I don t know. I d have to go back and check the
prices realized because I just never wanted to know. I
really didn t. But it was effective in the sense that I did
pay off all my debt.
That s good.
So that was really good and successful in that sense,
really, because I just felt so terrible owing people money,
especially people who couldn t afford to lend money. It
worked out all right. It really did.
Well, in looking at your goals and proposed programs, it s
very ambitious. In addition to Fine Print, you proposed--
why don t you just look this over [gives her paper] and
mention what you want?
Yes. We wanted to run a series of interdisciplinary popular
seminars on such themes as Appreciating and Collecting
Contemporary Books, Appreciation and Collecting Fine
Bindings, Edition Binding and Fine Presses, and a seminar on
the Basics of Typography, and a Specialist s Seminars on
Non-Roman Type Faces, on Commercial Typesetting Versus
Desktop Computer Type, the Types of Eric Gill, the Origins
and Development of San Serif Types, and then--of course,
these were just a few ideas that we were obviously capable
of doing at that time.
And then we wanted to range further afield, and we
wanted to organize a Pro Arte Libri book club, which would
issue regular catalogs of books about books, typography,
bibliography, and book crafts and printing, and catalog them
and offer at a discount, by direct mail, several times a
year. Well, you know, nowadays we would have put it on the
Right, right. Would these seminars have all been held in
Well, at that time we had this wonderful large space in the
Printing Industry of Northern California s "PINC building"
on Third Street, so we had this very large space and we
could have easily held seminars right in that office. And
there were other printers in the vicinity, too. There was
the beginnings of a computer firm that did computer graphic
design, so it was a wonderful mix of people there.
And then another thing we would do would be to have
public exhibitions and demonstrations. You know, the way we
had at the ABA in Las Vegas in 1990. And many other
organizations, including American Library Association and
the Center for the Book in Florida and so on--they wanted to
have similar kinds of expositions at their meetings, so
there were lots of possibilities therewhich we were never
able to follow up on, of course.
To become a nonprofit organization, did you have to
demonstrate that you had a certain amount of money? Was
that part of it?
Kirshenbaum: I think we had to demonstrate that we had a certain number
of supporters, not necessarily money. That s my
This didn t succeed?
What do you think the problems were?
Well, I think in some regards it was very successful in
terms of donations that we received. We really got some
very generous donations, and I won t mention one person who
gave us a lot of money because I don t think he d want to be
identified. But he gave us something like $15,000, so that
was very helpful. And then the other people they also gave
us lesser donations but substantial ones, and so that was
very, very helpful.
I think it would have been a success. I think that
there s two problems with it. One thing is that since I had
a board--! think this is the same problem that everybody s
got. All nonprofit organizations have the strong person
who initiates the whole thing is now in a way hogtied by the
board, and so there was a time when we had our board meeting
and I wanted to go ahead and do the super-big mailing,
Bartkoviak, of all his people. And essentially I got shot
down by the board because they didn t want me to get into
any dangerous situations again.
Financially. And mainly our treasurer, Leah Wolfe, who was
a dear friendyou know, she didn t want me to take any more
You thought that was the only chance you had, really.
Yes. I felt that way, but they wouldn t give their approval
for this massive mailing because they thought it would be
too expensive and not remunerative enough. So there were
some things that I really would have done to improve the
prospects of Fine Print that I wasn t able to do. Then
shortly after that, I think- -we held that meeting in
October- -well, anyway, then shortly after that I wasn t able
to follow through on those plans in any case.
This is because you became ill?
This was in 90?
Actually, it was 92, late 92, my annus horribilis .
Going back to 90, you did not publish Volume 16, Number 4.
That s right.
Was that for financial reasons?
Yes, because I owed money. I owed money, and they wouldn t
--you know, Andrew Hoyem was very adamant. I visited him
with Dechard Turner, and I wanted him to release our type,
and he wouldn t do it because he said, "I ve done enough in
He had set the type? When you say "release the type"?
Yes, I think it was all set. I guess he wanted us to pay,
and so that was it.
Seeking a University Press Publisher; No Solution
Yes. Now, there was a point where you thought Fine Print
might be transferred to the University of Iowa.
That didn t succeed either, did it?
No, it didn t. There were two prime possibilities. One was
KIT, Rochester Institute of Technology, and the other one
was the University of Iowa. I ll tell you the story, but I
may not necessarily want to keep it in the oral [history] .
Well, you can edit it out.
Right. What happened was that I had been in negotiations
with Thomas Taylor, who had a large letterpress printer in
Texas. In Austin. I was also talking about the University
of Iowa and Rochester Institute of Technology which were the
two universities that were really interested in Fine Print,
in taking it over and publishing it. And so I realized that
I could not continue the way I had been, and I just couldn t
manage it anymore, so I thought the best answer was to give
it to one of these universities or to go into partnership
with Thomas Taylor and let him do the printing and let me do
Was he amenable to that?
Well, at first he seemed to be, but later he called me and
he said, "You know, one of the main reasons that--I
originally wanted to create my own book arts journal, and
the only reason I really didn t was I couldn t think of a
good name." And he said, "Now I ve thought of one, and so I
don t want to collaborate with you anymore. I want to do my
own thing." He said, "That s the way I ve always been. I
like to do my own thing, and I don t like to collaborate
with anybody, and so our deal is off."
Only later did I discover that Kim Merker, who was on
our board of directors-
University of Iowa?
Yes, at the University of Iowa. Only later did I discover--
Kim Merker had abused our offer of our mailing list. In
other words, instead of just using it for one mailing for
this Iowa Center for the Book--
You d given him the mailing list so that he could--
I had given him the mailing list. That was when he just
wanted to have our mailing list for the Center for the Book
at Iowa. Of course, we gave it to him. We had no reason to
distrust him at that time. But what he did was he had one
of his underlings, I should call her, one of the women who
worked at the presshe had her copying, name for name, all
our mailing list, for later use. When I discovered that, I
was just irate. We did some lawyer type things and so on.
But in the meanwhile, I learned that Thomas Taylor had
received a copy of the mailing list from Kim Merker. I
suspect that that was why he withdrew from our deal because
he had our list, and he thought he could do his own journal
very readily, using our list, I suspect. But I don t know
for sure that that was his intention. But he did say
something when I discussed this with him over the phone. He
said, "Well, I didn t know that Kim Merker didn t have
permission to send the mailing list to me. I thought it was
okay." And he said, "I always wondered why he never sent me
the library list, the list of library subscribers. I guess
you hadn t given him that." So I said, "No, I didn t."
The whole thing just hurt me so much. It did. I mean,
I just felt betrayed in the worst way. I felt like they
were two men taking advantage of me as a woman, thinking
that they could pull this off without my knowing it.
Actually, the only way I knew was when I got a mailing that
went to my mother, who was one of our "fake" address people.
And she got a solicitation then.
Yes, that s too bad.
Taylor did go on to produce his periodical, which was called
That s right.
Which lasted about four years, I think.
That s right. It was like an imitation Fine Print. And he
poached on all the writers I had developed. I mean, it was
really awful. It was an awful imitation thing. He took all
my good writers and had them write for him. By the time he
got his Bookways thing going, I was already sick. I
couldn t protest too much.
Well, it s probably just as well.
Yes. But I did get to threaten Kim Merker a little bit. I
wrote him some nasty letters. That will probably be in the
archive there. Later he tried to apologize.
Oh, I think it is. I think I ve seen it.
So that was my adventures in printing, fine printing.
Well, it s in the world of business.
The world of business.
And that makes a difference.
Well, think about the good aspects of it. Fine Print lasted
for almost sixteen years and it is a distinguished magazine,
still used by people, and always will be, I think.
I hope so.
Oh, I think so.
The Complete Index to Fine Print
I m working now like hell on the complete index.
Yes, I wanted to talk about the last thing I wanted to talk
about was your proposed index to Fine Print because Fine
Print, like most journals, doesn t have indexes. Sixteen
years of a lot of information.
Kirshenbaum: Absolutely. And complex.
Complex information, which is really not available in the
way it would be if there was a very good index. So when did
you start working on this index?
My records show that we started it in 1996, when I made an
agreement with an indexer who had been recommended to me by
Wilsted & Taylor, who have done a lot of work for the
University of California Presstypesetting. So I started
out with giving her a substantial payment in 1996. Believe
it or not, we are still working on it.
Harlan: I can believe it. Indexing is not easy,
It turned out to be a much more complex and intricate job
than I had ever imagined, or for that matter that the
indexer, herself, had ever imagined. So it s now the middle
of 1999, and I m still going over the second draft, and it s
almost going item by item. So it has been a lot of work.
I ve had to go back over it and examine almost every entry
and make sure that it was right.
Why don t you describe, in as much detail as you want, what
--well, what are the approaches in the index?
Well, okay. There is actually three indexes. One is the
table of contents, which is just a listing of each issue
with the principal articles that appeared in it, and who the
cover designer was or the issue designer or whatever. So
that is a very important access tool.
So the second is what we call the names index. That was
all the presses and the names of the proprietors and
referral from the press names to the printer names, and then
we had other names of authors and article writers and book
reviewers and reference book writers, and all those were in
the names index. I had some trouble with that because I
realized that going through the names, one wouldn t know
whether one actually wrote an article or reviewed a book.
But we decided it would have been just too, too complicated
to try to make those designations, so only if a person had a
lot of entries did we say "reviewed by" or "article by" and
so on. Other people that just had one entry, we just hoped
that they would find them somehow.
And then we had what we called the subject index. And
that has turned out to be a true--
So in the subject index we put all things that were relating
to book arts and we included the subjects of reference books
reviewed because frequently a lot of information would be in
a book review of, say, illuminated manuscripts or something.
And so we figured people wouldn t really care if they could
tell how long the entry was and from that, they could tell
if it was an extensive article in Fine Print or if it was
just a small book review.
So we didn t make any distinction in the subject index
of authors and article writers and so on. There was none of
that. There was only the subjects of the things that were
either reviewed or articles on. For example, we had a whole
section of letterforms, and we would put in there all the
articles on different letterforms, like alphabets and
calligraphy and all those things. And then we had a whole
section on type design and typography, and we had a whole
list of featured bookbinders.
I didn t know whether we really should have put the
bookbinders, the whole list of bookbinders and we had a
whole list of type designers, too, and we had a whole list
of types, and so there was always a question, Well, should
this be in the subject index, or should it be in the names
index?--because if you have a whole list of names, well,
that ought to go in the names index. But we tried to
restrict the names mainly to authors, writers of articles
and reviewers and illustrators and people like that.
Whether it was the name of the author of an article or the
author of a reviewed book, we did not make a distinction,
okay? But that just shows you how complexit could have
been even more complex had we attempted to do that. But
Do you have any idea how long it will be, how many pages?
Our last estimate is something like seventy pages.
Wow. Well, that will be a thorough index.
Yes, it will be. It will definitely be very thorough.
So when the index is completed, will you publish it, or are
you thinking about--
Well, what I m thinking is to just take the whole thing over
to Charles Faulhaber at The Bancroft Library and say,
"Here s the complete index to Fine Print. Now you ve got
the archive of Fine Print. Why don t you publish this?"
And so I would hope that he would take me up on the
challenge and go ahead and do it and get it out of my hair.
I mean, that s what I want!
Thoughts on Computer Design and the Fine Print Legacy
Yes. What would you like to do next?
I know for one thing that Willa Baum wants you to do some
oral histories on people like Sumner Stone.
Right. Well, what I wanted to do was to do an oral history
on the transition and the possibility of using a computer to
design letters and the people who made the first steps in
that direction. And then I understood thatyou know that a
lot of this has been written already.
That I don t have to do it. So, I mean, a lot of people
have written about the origins of the computer interface
because it s very interesting to think that computer output
in the sixites was a whole bunch of punched cards, and
that s how you got the information, by sorting through these
It seems very primitive now, doesn t it?
It really does! And then somehow they discovered the fact
that you could actually create graphics on the screen that
would let you into the mind of the computer, and that whole
thing just fascinated me, so I thought I could do an oral
history on it. But I found that a lot of it has been done
already and that Stanford has done a lot of work in Silicon
And I was very interested in Xerox Pare- -you know, where
a lot of the early pioneers had developed the whole idea of
an interface, a graphic interface. And I thought, Wow, it
would be so neat to interview some of those people and have
that all coming out. But actually, I discovered that
Stanford University had already started that, so I didn t
want to interfere with it at all.
But what I did do was I was thinking of another aspect
that has not been written about, and that is--or even
interviewed about and that was the influence of Lloyd
Reynolds at Reed College in Oregon. He taught calligraphy,
and he inspired so many people. He managed to, for example,
revolutionize the teaching of writing in schools, to teach
young people how to write italic letters. He had these
wonderful classes. That was where I first met Charles
Bigelow because he had been studying with Lloyd Reynolds,
and I soon discovered that there was a whole group of people
who later went on to develop the whole idea of type design
by computer, that were influenced by Lloyd Reynolds in the
sense of getting an appreciation of letterforms and what
went into the design of letters and all that.
There were people like, of course, Chuck Bigelow and
Kris Holmes and Sumner Stone and Michael Sheridan and a
couple of others who studied with Lloyd Reynolds, who then
later went on to develop the core of type design by
computer. And so I thought I would try to restrict my
interviewing with that. But so far I haven t been
successful because I ve been too involved with the Fine
Print index and so on. Meanwhile, Bigelow and Holmes have
moved to Hawaii! So they re not too easy to reach anymore.
No. Can you keep up with the fine print scene as much as
No, no. 1 feel very distant from it now. I feel like I
my bit for it, and I ll let other people do it now.
It s interesting that after Fine Print was Bookways , which
was different in some respectsnot as successful, I think.
Then there s a hiatus of several years, and now we have this
new journal called Parenthesis, which is too new to
evaluate. It has the advantage, or perhaps the
disadvantage, of having an English and American split.
There s an English office and an American office. We ll see
what happens with that.
But there seems still to be a pretty lively printing scene.
Right. Well, you know, at a certain point, when I thought
that Fine Print would meet a demise in any case, because of
the fact that computer communications would sort of take
over and there would no longer be a need for a magazine like
Fine Print, I wanted to change the character of Fine Print
at a certain point and call it Fine Print: The Review for
the Design of Literature. That would have brought in the
literary, which I love, and would allow us to still do
limited edition books of fine literature, which I think is
really wonderful and a wonderful way to get out the
literature that might not find a publisher because, you
know, publishers now are more and more interested in having
--and so on. I wanted it to include literature design by
computer, as well. And I wanted to review, for example, CDs
that would show a sensitivity to design and so on. So that
was my idea for a continuation of Fine Print, but then, of
course, it never came to pass.
Yes. Well, I think Fine Print stands on its own, don t you?
And I think it made a major contribution.
And I think its influence will continue to be felt.
Postscript: On November 10, 2000, Sandra Kirshenbaum received a letter
notifying her that she had been chosen unanimously by the
awards committee to receive the 2001 Award of the American
Printing History Association (the first person in the
Western U.S. to receive this honor).
Transcribed by Him Eisenberg and Gary Varney
Final Typed by Shannon Page
TAPE GUIDE--Sandra Kirshenbaum
Interview 1: February 2, 1999
Tape 1, Side A 1
Insert from Tape 7, Side A [12-14-99] 2
Resume Tape 1, Side A 7
Tape 1, Side B 17
Tape 2, Side A 30
Tape 2, Side B 42
Interview 2: April 30, 1999
Tape 3, Side A 52
Tape 3, Side B 64
Tape 4, Side A 77
Tape 4, Side B not recorded
Interview 3: June 29, 1999
Tape 5, Side A 87
Insert from Tape 7, Side A [12-14-99] 96
Tape 7, Side B 100
Tape 8, Side A 108
Resume Tape 5, Side A 112
Tape 5, Side B 115
Tape 6, Side A 127
Tape 6, Side B 137
Abbatoir Editions, 108
Abbey, Dorothy, 107
Achepohl, Keith, 106
Adobe Illustrator, 88
Adobe Systems, 76, 84-85, 129
Agency for International
Development (AID) , 16
Alcott, Louisa May, 8
Allen, Sue, 134
American Booksellers Association
(ABA), 129, 130, 132, 135
American Express Company, 4
American Institute of Graphic Arts
(AIGA) , 103
American Library Association
(ALA), 130, 135
American Smelting and Refining
Company, 11, 16
Amert, Kay, 122
Angelo, Valenti, 86, 96
Annals of American Biography, 12
Antonetti, Martin, 134
Argentina, residence in and
opinion of, 16-17, 19, 21
Arion Press, 33, 58, 96, 124
Art of the Book Conference, Omaha,
Atherton (California) Public
Australian National Library, 119
Barnett, Tim, 72
Bartowiak, 119, 130
Baud in, Fernand, 67
Baum, Willa, 142
Bedford, Peter, 112-113, 116
Bedford Arts, 111, 113
Bieler Press, 75
Bigelow, Charles, 73, 83-84, 114,
Bigus, Richard, 56, 90, 134
Bilek, Frantisek, 55
Bing Nursery School, 19
Blinn, Carol, 85
Blumenthal, Joseph, 85, 98
Blynn, Carol, 5, 98
Book Club of California, The, 26,
28, 39, 44, 69, 86
Book Club of California Quarterly
News-Letter, The, 31
Bookbinders of California, 78
"Bookbinding: Perspective and
Book Prices Current, 24
Bookways, 138, 143
Bright, William, 83
Brill of Leiden, 59
Bringhurst, Robert, 50, 57, 62,
British Library, The, 67, 119
Broder Collection, 36-37, 82-83
Broder family, 27, 29
Bronte, Emily, 111
Bucket Rider, 86
Butler, Frances, 92, 97-98
Caflisch, Max, 101
California Arts Council, 124-125
California Book Auction, 21-26,
30, 32, 130
California Polytechnical State
Camel Printing Press, 106
Candau, Eugenia, 40
Cantor, Marjorie, 110
Carnegie, Andrew, 17
Carnegie Library School, 10-11
Carnegie-Mellon University, 10
Carter, Sebastian, 98
Caxton, William, 24
Center for the Book, the
University of Iowa, 128
Center for the Book, Florida, 135
Centre Amici del Libro, 69
Chamberlain, Sarah, 103
Chanel Number 5, 73
Cherokee language, 83
Ciano, Conte Galeazzo, 4
Colines, Simon de, 98
Colophon Club, 34
Complete Angler, The, 104
"Contemporary s View of Dwiggins,
Cooper White and Cooper, 127
Copper Range Company, 21
Corey, Steven, 25, 32, 35-36, 39,
Corvine Press, 83
Cumminston Press, 41
Cumulative Book Index, 31
Dante Alighieri, 100
Dawson, Muir, 134
Delauney, Robert, 120
Delauney, Sonia, 120
DeNola, Elda, 2-5, 13-15, 37
DeNola, Leone, 3-7, 12-13
Designer Bookbinders, 78
Dewey, Melvil, 17
Dewey Decimal Classification, 18-
Dostoevsky, Fyodor, 111
Doves Press, 91
Dreyfus, John, 65, 114
Druekers in der Marge, 88
Duensing, Paul Hayden, 54, 61-62,
66, 85, 114, 128
Duffy, Diane, 8
Duncan, Henry, 41, 52-53, 106
Dwiggins, William Addison, 107
archives, 118, 122, 124
"Books in Sheets," 77
"Broadside Roundup," 74-77
"Corey s Queries," 41
Czech issue, 53-54, 72, 87,
Dutch issue, 87-89
proposed French issue, 74
German issue, 87, 89, 95, 108
proposed Hungarian issue, 75
proposed index, 83-84, 115
Islamic issue, 79
Italian issue, 68
library, sale of, 133-134
"New Presses," 77
"On Type," 82-83, 114
"Recent Press Books," 40
"Reference Shelf," 41, 79
"Shoulder Notes," 41
Tenth Annual Issue, 92-95
"Works in Progress," 40
Fine Print on Type, 112-116
"Fine Printing and Trade Book
Publishing: Conflict and
Fox, George, 30
Franklin, Colin, 66
Frazer, James, 54, 59, 107-108
Frederick, Helen, 127-128
Freeland, Alan, 127-128
French National Library, 119
Furesz, Andras, 72
Eichenberg, Antonie, 111
Eichenberg, Fritz, 111
Elements of Typographic Style, 91
Ellis Island, 5
Enchede Typefoundry, 88-89
Everson, William, 58
Fables of Aesop, 7
Fairleigh Dickinson University,
54, 59, 108
Faulhaber, Charles, 141
Ferlinghetti, Lawrence, 111
Fine Arts Press, 108
Fine Print, 1, 26, 36-144 passim
Garamond, Claude, 109
Garden Court (Palace Hotel, San
"Garden of Earthly Delights"
(Santa Clara Valley) , 6
Garden of the Finzi-Continis , 3
Garnett, Porter, 1
Gentry, Helen, 105
Gentry, Linnea, 35-37, 39-40
Germany, visit to and opinion of,
35-36, 39-40, 43, 55-56, 64-65,
67, 82, 104, 110, 119
Gill, Eric, 60, 110, 134
Ginger (personal name), 127, 131
Gleeson Library (University of San
Francisco), 32, 76
Goethe, Johann, 63
Goines, David, 134
Golganooza Type Foundry, 129
Goluska, Glen, 106
Golden, Barbara, 128, 131
Graalfs, Gregory, 118
Grabhorn, Edwin, 33
Grabhorn, Robert, 33, 42
Grabhorn Collection (San Francisco
Public Library), 25
Grabhorn Press, 31, 33
Grabhorn-Hoyem Press, 33, 35
Greenwood, Georgiana, 84
Gremaldi, Josephine, 11
Gremaldi, Laura, 11
Grolier Club, 24-25
Grumbach, Doris, 50
Guide to Reference Books, 12
Guild of Bookbinders, 87
Guild of Bookmakers, 44, 78
Gunn, Tom, 49
Gutsch, Herbert, 110
Banff, Peter, 28
Harding, George, 39
Harrison, Mrs., 8
Harvard, Steven, 45, 48, 120-121,
Heaney, Seamus, 49
Hechscher, August, 85
Heinlein, Robert, 8
Heller, Steven, 107
Herrick, Gale, 27
Hestahl, Dorothy, 27
Hestahl, Eleanor, 27
Hillesheim, Alan, 129
Hoffman, H., Ill
Holmes, Kris, 43, 84-85, 98
Howell, Warren, 26
Hoyem, Andrew, 33, 42, 48, 58-59,
Hoyt-Koch, Shelley, 94
Huizenga, Janine, 89
Illia, Arturo, 17
Impremirie Dromedair, 106
Iowa Center for the Book, 138
Jane Eyre, 111
Janus Press, 30, 85
Jiskra, Jan, 107
Johns, Douglas, 133
"Join Us for Dinner in Rome," 15
Kafka, Franz, 86
Kaplan, Herb, 32-33
Katz, Bill, 44
Kipling, Rudyard, 50
Kirshenbaum, Noel, 10, 16, 21, 33
Kis, Miklos, 73-74
Knopf, Alfred A., 107
Koch, Peter, 94
Kupa, Frantisik, 55
Laboratory Press, 11
Lerner, Abe, 86, 91
Library Journal, 44, 120
Library of Congress, 79
Livingston, Mark, 98
MacArthur Fellowship, 83
Mad Woman of Chaillot, 34
Mardersteig, Giovanni, 68, 71,
Mardersteig, Martino, 68-69, 71,
Marin Pescador Press, 72
Melville, Herman, 58
Menlo Park Public Library, 20
Menhart, Oldfich, 55
Michelangelo Buonarroti, 10
Mining and Scientific Press, 33
Minnesota Historical Association,
Miura, Osowshi, 72
Moby Dick, 58
Monihan, Father William J., 32
Monte Cassini, 64
"Most Beautiful Books in the
World" conference, Verona,
Moser, Barry, 58, 98, 100
Mosley, James, 14
Mott, Steve, 109
Mount Zion Hospital (San
Francisco) , 6
Mussolini, Benito, 3
Nash, John Henry, 59
Nazi Party, 62
"Neglected American Art Form, A,"
Neruda, Pablo, 90
Nesbitt, Alexander, 107
New Bookbinders, 87
New York Times, The, 86-87
New Yorker, 98
Newsletter for the Arts of the
Book, A, 39
Nightshade Press, 106
"Notes on Women in Printing," 104
Oak Knoll Press, 70
O Connell, Bonnie, 108
Ode to Typography, 90
"Out of the Cradle, Endlessly
Oxford University Press, 49
Palace Hotel (San Francisco), 13
Pascoe, Juan, 52-53
Petrequin, Scott, 123
Peters, John, 42
Phaedrus, 56, 90
Plain Wrapper Press, 69, 71
Plantin-Moretus Museum, 67
Pomodoro, Arnaldo, 70
Portola branch, San Francisco
Public Library, 7
Portola Jr. High School, San
Powers, Maurice, 22-23, 26, 133
Powers, Will, 94, 131
Preissig, Vojtech, 55
Printing Industry of Northern
Printing on the Iron Handpress,
Pro Arte Libri, 126-130
Pro Arte Libri Book Club,
Prose du Transiberien, La, 120
Publishers Weekly, 31
Piiterschein Press, 107
Pyramid Atlantic Book Arts
Quadflieg, Roswitha, 63-64, 86,
Raecke, Renata, 60-62, 64, 108
Rampant Lions Press, 96, 98
Reed College, 84, 99, 143
Rex, 3, 4
Reynolds, Lloyd, 79, 83-84, 143
Ritchie, George F., 35-36, 39,
Rochester Institute of Technology,
Rockefeller Center, 6
Roosevelt, Theodore, 9
Rosenthal, Barney, 24
Rota, Simon, 66
Roxburghe Club of California, 34
Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, The, 49
Rummonds, Richard-Gabriel, 69-70
Sabbadini, Albert, 4
Sabbadini, Emily, 13
Sabbadini, Umberto, 2
San Francisco, 5-6, 8, 11, 20-21,
23, 111-112, 135
San Francisco Public Library, 5,
21, 25, 30, 32-33
San Mateo High School, 9
Sheridan, Michael, 84, 143
Sherith Israel, 13
Sherman, Stuart C., 58
Simmons, Anna, 60-61
Skelton, Christopher, 100
Smith, Philip, 40
"Some Thoughts on Expressionism,"
Sonnets from the Portuguese, 49
Special Libraries Association,
Sperisen, Albert, 82
St. Brides Library, 114
Stamford (Connecticut) Public
Stanford University, 16, 19, 21,
Stanford University Business
Stauffacher, Jack, 11, 27, 34,
52, 56, 73, 85, 90-91, 96
Stempel Typefoundry, 109
Stinehour Press, 45, 120, 124
Stone, Sumner, 84, 85, 99, 114,
Strauss, Monica, 87, 89, 120-121
Tallone, Alberto, 69
Tanner, Wesley, 102-103, 131
Taylor, W. Thomas, 92, 137
The Bancroft Library, 68, 115,
The Netherlands, 52, 67, 88, 100
Tiessin, Wolfgang, 57, 62, 90-91
Times Literary Supplement, 49
Tolstoy, Leo, 111
"Transport and Handling of Sulfide
Turner, Decherd, 128, 136
Twomey, Juliet Spahn, 114
Block Condensed, 111
Caslon, 82, 101
Gill Sanserif, 101
typefaces (cont d.)
Typography on the Blackboard, 67
Unger, Gerard, 100
Universal Container Company, 6
University of Alabama, 70
University of Arizona, 29
University of California,
University of California Press,
University of Iowa, 30, 72, 122,
University of San Francisco, 32
Vachal, Josef, 56
Van Krimpen, Huib, 88
Van Krimpen, Jan, 88, 100
Van Vliet, Clare, 39, 41, 46, 85,
Vatican, The, 2
Venus and Adonis, 73
Von Arnim, Bettina, 63
Vulvania , 3
Walker, Scott, 92
Walkup, Kathy, 104-105
Warnock, John, 76
Watkins, Carelton E., 29
Way and Williams, 29
Weimann, Christ, 79, 99, 102
Weimann, Ingrid, 79, 102
Wells Fargo Corporation, 23
Wilkes, Walter, 61
"William Addison Dwiggins : A
Current Assessment," 107
Wilson, Adrian, 27, 34, 39, 61,
Wilson, Joyce, 34, 61
Wilsted and Taylor, 140
Winchell, Constance, 12
Windle, John, 57
Wizard of Oz , 28
Wolfe, Leah, 136
World s Fair (New York), 3, 13
Withering Heights, 111
Xerox Pare, 142
Yolla Bolly Press, 134
Zakairya, Mohammed, 79-80
Zapf, Hermann, 61, 63, 94-95, 105
Born in Hastings, Nebraska; came to Berkeley in
1963 as Assistant Professor, School of
Librarianship. Professor Emeritus 1992. Hastings
College, B.A. University of Michigan, M.A.L.S.,
Author of biographies of John Henry Nash (1970 and
1982) and William Doxey (1983), several articles on
printing and publishing in the Bay Area since the
19th century, a bibliography of the Grabhorn Press
and Grabhorn-Hoyem (1977), and The Two Hundredth
Book: A Bibliography of the Books Published by the
Book Club of California 1958-1992 (1993).
U. C. BERKELEY LIBRARIES